Ben Johns: Nationals was “catastrophe” run by “dictatorship”
Ouch: "[M]akes me never want to play a USAP tournament ever again."

December 16, 2021

Number 1-ranked pickleball pro Ben Johns and fellow pro player Rob Nunnery host a smart, funny, and wide-ranging podcast called “The Freestyle Boys.” If you’re a pickleball fanatic and you’re not listening, you’re missing out. They offer “hot takes,” pro strategy insights, rec play tips, commentary on news and events, and unfiltered opinions on all aspects of the sport.

In Episode 19, their most recent show available here, Johns and Nunnery took on last week’s nationals tournament hosted by USA Pickleball at Indian Wells. We’ve already covered the controversy over the event’s discrimination against unvaccinated staff, players, and spectators here; Tyler Loong’s analysis of the reasons pro players didn’t show up here; and USAP’s insane ban of Zane Navratil and Altaf Merchant here.

The Freestyle Boys, who did not participate at nationals, didn’t pull any punches about what they heard from their sources on the ground. Johns called the event a flat-out “catastrophe” from the pro players’ perspective and said he heard “a lot of complaints” about “arbitrary rules” and “little communication between directors and the pros.”

Nunnery called USAP’s decision to ban Navratil and Merchant from playing men’s doubles an “unprecedented weird move.”

Johns agreed, noting that USAP’s punitive measure “makes me never want to play a USAP tournament ever again…or support anything they do.”

The duo revealed that USAP allegedly threatened to “permanently ban” any other pro player who dared to intervene or weigh in on its ban of Navratil and Merchant.

This reminds us of when USAP deleted online criticism of its ridiculous attempt to create a second, separate Hall of Fame.

Johns summed up USAP’s approach as a “dicatorship” run with an “it’s all our way or the highway” attitude and raised the question of how many pros will even bother to compete at nationals next year.

We’ve reached out to USAP for a response. Stay tuned (but don’t hold your breath…we’ve had experience before with the organization’s non-responsive responses!)


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