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French Open Takes Radical Step of Punishing a Famous Man Who Forced Himself on a Woman

French tennis player Maxime Hamou later apologized for his "overflow of enthusiasm."ERIC FEFERBERG—AFP/Getty Images

Leave it to the French.

The French Open has revoked the credentials of Maxime Hamou after the 21-year-old French tennis player repeatedly kissed Eurosport journalist Maly Thomas and held her by the neck and shoulders during an interview on Monday. Thomas tried to duck Hamou’s advances, elbowing him in the chest and attempting to loosen his grip, as she spoke with him following his ouster from the Grand Slam tournament.

Thomas’s colleagues in the Eurosport studio clapped and laughed as the incident unfolded on live television.

The French Tennis Federation (FTT) condemned Hamou’s behavior as “reprehensible” and ordered an investigation.

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The incident also sparked outrage in some corners of social media. French politician Cécile Duflot weighed in on Twitter: “He kisses her by force, she tries to get away, he holds her by the neck and everyone… laughs #tired.”

Thomas told the Huffington Post France that Hamou’s actions were “frankly unpleasant.”

Hamou later apologized on his Facebook page, offering his “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…and I expressed my overflow of enthusiasm crudely towards Maly, who I know and respect sincerely,” he said. (It should be noted that Hamou’s tournament experience was abbreviated since he lost in the first round.)

Kissing the nearest woman—whether she agrees to the gesture or not—is still too often a means of male celebration.

It’s how former Fiat CEO Lapo Elkann commemorated winning an auction prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year. Elkann, wielding a lit cigarette, planted a surprise kiss on host Uma Thurman at the event for the American Foundation for AIDS Research as the actress announced the Italian businessman as winner of two tickets to the Victoria Secret Fashion Show.

A representative for the actress later said that Thurman was not privy to the stunt and felt “very unhappy” about the kiss.

“It is opportunism at its worst. She wasn’t complicit in it,” spokeswoman Leslie Sloane told People. “Somewhere in his head he must have thought it an appropriate way of behaving. It clearly wasn’t.”
It’s also how Adrien Brody marked his win for Best Actor at the 2003 Academy Awards. In accepting the award for his performance in The Pianist, the actor dipped presenter Halle Berry into a surprise, full-on kiss even though Berry awaited Brody with open arms for—seemingly—the customary hug and cheek peck.
“I bet they didn’t tell you that was in the gift bag,” he told Berry before an audience of millions as the actress, with a slight scowl, wiped her face. The Oscars’ YouTube channel currently lists the kiss as one if its “favorite moments.” Berry was less enthusiastic, later calling the kiss “wet” when Access Hollywood asked her to describe it.
After the Elkann incident last year, Slate noted that the surprise stranger kiss came to be seen as romantic—and perhaps the ultimate expression of exuberance—from the iconic “V-J Day in Times Square” photo of a World War II sailor smooching a nurse. But lost in the lore of that captured moment is that it was nonconsensual. In 2005, the nurse, Greta Friedman, explained that “the guy just came over and grabbed.”
“Suddenly, I was grabbed by a sailor. … I did not observe anybody taking pictures. I was anxious to get back to work,” she said, describing herself as a “bystander” to the incident. “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed,” she said.
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What’s unique about Monday’s episode is that Hamous—despite being somewhat famous—actually faced consequences for imposing his will on an unsuspecting woman who was simply doing her job. In past cases or reports of such behavior, men have been regarded as spontaneous, waved off as jokesters, or elected president of the United States.
While the French Open took immediate action against Hamou, it wasn’t quite the response Thomas had in mind.
“If I hadn’t been live on air, I would have punched him,” she said.