Tennis player Maxime Hamou has been banned from the 2017 French Open after grabbing a female reporter and attempting to forcibly kiss her during a live interview.
The 21-year-old player had been approached by Eurosport journalist Maly Thomas to talk about his first-round loss to Pablo Cuevas. But, as their discussion was aired on television show Avantage Leconte, Hamou wrapped his arm tightly around the shoulders of a visibly distressed Thomas.
Holding tightly onto her, and ignoring her struggle to get away, Hamou kissed the journalist – a move which, shockingly, prompted laughter and applause from commentators in the studio.
Viewers watching the broadcast soon took to Twitter to criticise Hamou’s behaviour.
Maxime Hamou:— Jo Keskills (@jokeskills) May 30, 2017
Ranked 287th in the world for Tennis.
Ranked 1st in the world for Creepy.
Just seen the Maxime Hamou video. Seriously, what goes through their heads?!!— Ace Tennis Tips (@Ace_Tennis_Tips) May 30, 2017
Maxime hamou: What an idiot.— Stephen (@StephenCWLL) May 30, 2017
Thomas, speaking to Huffington Post France, described the experience as “unpleasant”, and insisted that things would have been very different if Hamou had not grabbed her during a live broadcast.
“If I hadn’t been live on air, I would have punched him,” she said.
Responding to the shocking footage, the French Tennis Federation has condemned Hamou’s “reprehensible behaviour” and revoked his accreditation as a result.
This means that he will be banned from participating in any further matches for the duration of the French Open – and they have added that he could face further sanctions upon a review of the incident by the Fédération Tunisienne de Tennis.
Hamou has since released an official statement of regret on his Facebook page.
Writing in his native French, he said: “I offer my deep apologies to Maly Thomas if she feels hurt or shocked by my attitude during her interview.
“I have just spent a magnificent week here at Roland Garros, living my most beautiful emotions as a tennis player, and I expressed my overflow of enthusiasm crudely towards Maly, who I know and respect sincerely.”
Hamou finished by saying: “I am available to her to present my apologies in person if she would like. I'm still learning every day from my mistakes to become a better tennis player and a better person.”
His comments have been well received by Eurosport, and the channel has since offered an apology of its own to “any viewers who may have been affected” by the broadcast.
“We sincerely regret the incident that occurred during yesterday evening's interview,” it said in a statement.
“The behaviour of the interviewee was highly inappropriate and we do not condone such conduct in any way.”
It is worth pointing out, however, that many people remain furious over Hamou’s behaviour, and have criticised him for not straightforwardly apologising.
“French Open player Maxime Hamou gives non apology for sexually harassing journalist Maly Thomas,” tweeted one, quoting the tennis player’s use of the words ‘if she feels hurt’.
Another added scathingly: “I loathe fauxpologies.”
We feel as if we have said this time and time again, but we will keep on banging this drum until we finally get the message across: women, no matter what their profession or life circumstances, should never expect to be sexually harassed – and the world needs to stop normalising misogynist behaviour like Hamou’s.
As one Twitter user pointed out: “Eurosport presenters, who laughed and clapped while he grabbed her forcefully, are an example of why sexual harassment is socially pervasive.
“No one seems concerned about Maly Thomas; no one asks if she's okay. They just cut away as she twists out of the headlock Hamou has her in…. don’t normalise this.”