I am a tennis fan. But more specifically, I am a Serena Williams and Venus Williams fan. If they are playing, I drop everything and watch Serena or Venus play tennis. Here’s my caveat: I only like to watch Venus when she is healthy because I don’t like to see her lose.
If Venus and Serena are playing each other in the finals, I am glued to the television. It’s an event. I almost lost my mind and voice the last time they played each other for the Wimbledon championship. It was epic.
Part of the reason I enjoy watching them is because they are African-American females who have mastered their craft. Recently, Serena Williams won her 18th Grand Slam singles title at the US Open in September. Her elder sister Venus has won seven Grand Slam singles titles.
The sisters are passionate, beautiful, strong females who have advanced the sport globally. They don’t look like their competitors. They don’t sound like their competitors and they don’t play like their competitors.
That’s why I love them.
And that’s why several people hate them as well.
Traditionally, tennis was not a sport that African-American women played or excelled at. It was a European sport. Well, once again, the Williams sisters had to be reminded that they do not share the prototypical look or desired pedigree of the players that some traditionalist would prefer.
Elena Dementieva, the former Olympic singles champion was on a late night Russian talk show with Shamil Tarpischev, a prominent member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). When Dementieva was asked what it was like playing against the Williams sisters, Tarpischev interjected and called them the “Williams brothers.” He also said that “it’s scary when you really look at them.”
Here is some more insight into this man’s position and how intricately he is involved with Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). Shamil Tarpischev, Russian Tennis Federation president, has been chairman of the Kremlin Cup, Russia’s only WTA event, for the entire 18 years as a women’s tour event.
He represents the sport in an official capacity and his offhand comments were absolutely mind-numbingly foolish, dense and showed an utter lack of progressive thinking and tolerance.
WTA chief Stacey Allaster said: “The statements made by Shamil Tarpischev on Russian television with respect to two of the greatest athletes in the history of women’s tennis are insulting, demeaning and have absolutely no place in our sport.”
After the comments, the WTA banned him from tennis for a year and fined him the maximum $25,000 fine allowed under their rules. I personally think that the rules should be altered to create stiffer fines.
Not only were his comments upsetting and disparaging to two females who have helped create relevance in the sport internationally but they are telling. It makes a person pause and think, if he is so comfortable with saying these comments in public. What must he be saying in private?
“I think the WTA did a great job of taking [the] initiative and taking immediate action to his comments,” Williams said Sunday in Singapore ahead of her WTA Finals defense. “I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying.”
Why is the WTA’s number #1 tennis player having to use words such as “racist,” “extremely sexist,” “bullying,” and “very insensitive” to describe a prominent member of the IOC and the Kremlin Cup chairman’s behavior?
Because no matter how talented or dominant the Williams sisters are in their craft, there will always be people who do not want them to succeed simply because the Williams sisters do not have skin the complexion of milk.
But this is the part that gets me really angry. Asked whether he regretted his comments, Tarpischev told The Associated Press on Saturday at the Kremlin Cup that the program on which he spoke was “a humorous show.” When asked about his ban, Tarpischev said: “I can’t comment. I don’t understand it.”
YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND IT?!
You don’t understand how your off-hand comments, which you intended to be funny, were in fact supremely offensive?
You don’t understand how calling two of the sport’s most notorious female players “brothers” is demeaning, cruel, and off putting for the international tennis community?
Well, considering the fact that you are a person of limited thinking, who does not embrace all races, finds it appropriate to make disparaging comments about the # 1 ranked female in a sport you represent, and a sport you are supposed to uplift and promote; then I completely understand.
You probably don’t comprehend why anyone would be upset that you used your foolish mouth to spew out the hateful thoughts that you hold so dear.
Enjoy your year off, Tarpischev. By that time you return, I’m sure the sisters will have added to their grand slam titles.
Be sure to keep the lights on when you watch them since you frighten so easily.
(Two Sources for this story was ESPN.com and AP )
Alexis Sara Cobb may be reached at: email@example.com or (724) 561-8082 Follow her on Twitter: @alexissara