Two or three times a year, when its courts and grandstands are made available for the nation's top tennis tourneys, the West Side Tennis Club at New York's Forest Hills becomes as much a public property as the Yankee Stadium. It is doubtful if many of the tennis buffs who flock through its turnstiles on those occasions to witness tournaments sponsored by the United States Lawn Tennis Association or professional promoter Jack Kramer either remember or care that they are enjoying the temporary lease of facilities belonging to a private club—a private club as deliberately and designedly exclusive as any other.
Last week, however, the privacy of that club became a matter of public argument when the son of one of the nation's most distinguished citizens, Dr. Ralph Bunche of the U.S. State Department and the United Nations, was told that, being a Negro, he probably would not be accepted for membership in the West Side Tennis Club. Because of a tragic confusion in the public mind—a confusion deliberately fostered in some cases by third parties with no genuine concern in the matter—over the relationship of the West Side Club and national and international tennis, which it serves as an occasional landlord, the Bunche incident was promptly exploded into a Page One cause c�l�bre on civil liberties. This clamor, it seems to us, can benefit nobody and may do irreparable harm to tennis.
Any responsible concern for civil liberties should, we think, grant to a private club an inalienable right to the privacy for which it was organized and a corresponding freedom to choose the companions of that privacy whether the choice be good or not. It is not for any man to say whom his neighbor should invite to dinner. Public concern properly begins only when the disagreements of neighbors become noisy enough to threaten the peace of the community at large. For the sake of a fine sport, this magazine deeply deplores the fact that the parties involved in this dispute could not have found a way to settle their private differences in private.