NEW YORK, NY, USA - WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster headlined a debate on Friday morning discussing tennis and philanthropy.
The New York Tennis Debate addressed the question, 'What can tennis do to improve lives in Africa?' and was staged at the Grand Hyatt in midtown Manhattan. Joining Allaster on the panel were Lorne Abony, the Chairman and CEO of Mood Media, former player and current ATP board member Justin Gimelstob and Janine Händel, the CEO of the Roger Federer Foundation.
During the debate, which was presented by Credit Suisse and hosted by CBS Sports' Bill Macatee, Allaster spoke at length of her pride at the charitable work carried out by today's players and also about the example set by their predecessors.
"Fundamentally, philanthropy has to come from the heart," Allaster said. "It comes from creating a culture, it comes from education and it comes from leadership.
"So how do we teach these teenagers? We do a Power Hour with Billie Jean King. Billie Jean speaks to players transitioning from junior tennis to pro tennis, giving a very simple message for them: 'It's not what you get, it's what you give.'"
Allaster also touched on the work Serena and Venus Williams have been doing in Africa, as well as smaller projects carried out the WTA and some of its less high-profile players.
"Not everyone can have a foundation like Roger Federer or Maria Sharapova do, and that's okay," Allaster continued. "If you have a foundation, that's a lifelong commitment. There are many charities that players can get involved with and make a significant difference.
"I spoke to Serena the other day, and she has already built two schools, and like Roger she has been inspired by those experiences of seeing the impact on the children.
"One athlete who does a lot under the radar is Venus Williams. I've just learnt that Venus is working on a water filtration program. By grade three, the young girls have to drop out of school as they have to help their mothers to get clean water. So Venus thought, 'well, if we help with the clean water, then the young girls can stay in school'. In addition, she's creating scholarship programs to help those kids who want more education.
"Our players are giving back, each and every day - we have an Aces program, and every week at tournaments athletes have to give much of their time for charity and sponsor visits."