Tennis legend John McEnroe and fellow BBC commentator Sue Barker have come under fire for supporting imprisoned Boris Becker on air during the network’s Wimbledon show.
Three-time Wimbledon champion Becker was sentenced to two and a half years in prison in April, following conclusion of his long bankruptcy lawsuit.
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The 54-year-old was found guilty of concealing £2.5million (A$4.4million) in assets and loans as part of an effort to avoid paying various debts.
McEnroe and Barker mentioned the tennis great, which had been part of the BBC’s coverage of Wimbledon in 2021, on the first day of the competition.
The American tennis great said: “Boris, we love you. We miss you, man,” to which Barker added, “Indeed.”
This led to a cascade of complaints against the couple, with many unhappy with the support given to Becker in light of his criminal conviction.
The BBC declined to comment publicly, but the couple’s decision to “send greetings” to a convicted felon “was not welcomed by some parts of the public.
McEnroe earlier declared his intention to visit his close friend in prison while he was in the UK for Wimbledon.
“Boris is a friend of mine. It’s just awful. I want to see him if possible and if he’s willing to see people,” he said.
“I just feel terrible. He’s one of the great players to ever play this game, and I know that meant a lot to Boris.
“He’s been going through a lot for a long time.”
Commentators criticized for their message of support for Boris Becker
McEnroe and Barker aren’t the only television and tennis personalities to offend the British public over Becker’s imprisonment, fellow BBC commentator Andrew Castle also called for his own message of support.
The former UK No.1 said Becker’s absence was keenly felt.
“I had a real moment where I missed Boris. I know he’s in jail and I know why. Boris, we look forward to welcoming you back when you return,” he said.
Becker previously received support from world No. 1 Novak Djokovic after his prison sentence was handed down.
Djokovic, who briefly employed Becker as an assistant coach, said the situation was “terrible” and added that he had contacted Becker’s son, Noah.
“Even when we stopped working, our relationship continued in a good way. I got in touch with one of his sons, Noah, and asked if there was anything I could do. “Djokovic said.
“I’m just very sad that someone I know so well, and of course someone who is a legend in our sport, is going through what they are going through.
“It’s only been less than a month. We know how long he has to stay there. So hopefully he stays healthy and strong.”
The 54-year-old was found guilty of transferring money to his ex-wives so he wouldn’t have to pay creditors.
Speaking earlier in May, the ex-wife Lilly Becker described her pain after Boris was sent to prison.
“I absolutely fell for it,” the Dutch model said on Piers Morgan’s “Uncensored” show.
“I couldn’t believe what I was hearing because I was convinced, until the judge gave his verdict, that he was going to get a little lighter than two and a half years.
“I had to stay together and I don’t know how I did.”
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