| By Steven Kaplan

I have a natural skepticism of many things, and two of my personal favorites are the social crusades of celebrities and tennis politics. When these forces mix, the results can range from the sublime to the ridiculous.

The watershed moment between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" is a glorious example of an awe-inspiring use of tennis and sports to promote social change.

A less glorious meritage of tennis celebrities and the political system occurred just a few days ago when King, Andre Agassi, and Venus and Serena Williams got drawn into Anchorage Alaska politics, and if that leaves you scratching your head and saying "Huh?" well join the club.

It seems that public hearings were held on a proposal to either build a new $10.5 million indoor tennis facility in Western Alaska or use the money as originally intended to rehabilitate and maintain existing facilities.

The man behind the involvement of the tennis greats in this project is John Hendrickson, who worked at a Florida academy in the late 1980s and is a friend of a friend to the stars, as well the Mayor, Dan Sullivan. 

King was asked to voice her view and she wrote an opinion piece about the virtues of the project for last Tuesday's Anchorage Daily News while the others made or offered phone calls to the political powers that be.

Assemblywoman Eivi Gray-Jackson said of all the tennis stars involvement, "On this particular subject, they don't have any idea of the infrastructure or needs in our community."

Hendrickson said the Williams Sisters could have spoken to the value of public tennis courts.

Gray-Jackson responded, "We're talking about infrastructure in our community, not whether tennis is good. Everyone knows tennis is a wonderful sport."

This is a highly complex and locally controversial issue involving  immediate area community needs and the transparency, discipline and accountably of state budgets. I cannot imagine how a powerful serve or great forehand qualifies as useful insight or expertise.

Social activist Patrick Geddes said in 1915, "Think Global, Act Local." It's good advice.

Steven Kaplan

Steve Kaplan is the owner and managing director of Bethpage Park Tennis Center, as well as director emeritus of Lacoste Academy for New York City Parks Foundation, and executive director and founder of Serve &Return Inc. Steve has coached more than 1,100 nationally- ranked junior players, 16 New York State high school champions, two NCAA Division 1 Singles Champions, and numerous highly-ranked touring professionals. Many of the students Steve has closely mentored have gone to achieve great success as prominent members of the New York financial community, and in other prestigious professions. In 2017, Steve was awarded the Hy Zausner Lifetime Achievement Award by the USTA. He may be reached by e-mail at StevenJKaplan@aol.com.