For keeping his temper, facing his opposition and winning his points, clearly few sportsmen can equal the tennis world's Jack Kramer, whose many talents are getting a brisk workout in Australia right now.
Australian amateurs are angry with Kramer because of all the expensively developed Australian Davis Cup stars he has bought up for his professional tour (five of them so far) and all those he plans to buy. They are angry because, they say, the drawing power of his pro stars drains off attendance and revenue from their amateur fixtures. And—this is Kramer's most recent offense—they are angry because Kramer objects to the rental terms of the Lawn Tennis Association of Australia and plans to stage his 1959 pro matches in public stadiums where LTAA groups will not get their cut of the proceeds.
All of these, however, are merely local complaints. On top of them, there is a larger charge based on the fact that Jack Kramer is Davis Cup Captain Perry Jones's chief aide and adviser. Though a pro, Kramer is a power among the amateurs. He has been working closely with the U.S. Davis Cup team for weeks. He knows Australia—and the conditions under which tennis is played there—as Jones does not. His words will carry weight when Jones makes the final choice of Davis Cup players. All these factors involve Kramer on the amateur side of the net.
It is no secret in Australia that as soon as the Davis Cup matches are over, Australian Cuppers Mal Anderson and Ashley Cooper plan to sign with Kramer. On a television panel show in Sydney recently, Adrian Quist, the ex-Aussie star, asked Kramer pointblank: "How do you feel about your offer [to Anderson and Cooper] in view of your position with the U.S. Davis Cup team? A bad loss by Cooper and Anderson—what would be your reaction to it?"
December 15, 1958
"Naturally," said Kramer, "they would be less valuable if they lost." But, he said later, "I will try to do everything I can to help the American team win."
No one doubts that Jack Kramer will do just that; no one questions his integrity. Nevertheless, the position he holds is untenable. It has become the vogue recently for men to take up conflicting interests, and to defend that act with the assertion that everybody knows they are honest. There is an older tradition which seems to us better: to avoid conflicts of interest so that one's acts don't need defending.
When Australians suggested that Kramer ought to resign, Perry Jones replied, "I have discussed the matter with Australian officials. I have told them Jack's professional activities are a separate matter entirely. They assured me that how we ran our team was our own private business."
Perry Jones needs Jack just as Ike once needed Sherman Adams and we're sorry about that. It is, however, something more than Jones's and Kramer's private business. The very fact that Kramer made his pre-cup offers to Australian players and not to American players shows that the chief counsellor of the American team (Kramer) has decided which pair of players is likely to make the best drawing card, later on, for the president of World Tennis, Inc. (also Kramer).
As a businessman, Kramer is entitled to disagree as often as he pleases with LTAA officials, or anyone else. But as special adviser to the U.S. Davis Cup captain, and as coach of the players, he has a duty to function without any conflict of interests whatever. He is not without that conflict of interests now.