Oldie but Goodie article about Venus and Serena
I came across this article while surfing. Hope you enjoy.
Julianne Malveaux Sun Reporter
RACE OR RAZE - VENUS, SERENA, AND TENNIS
BY JULIANNE MALVEAUX
I am going to have to, finally, give it up for sports. I’m no fan, have never been, and think that those who are sport-obsessed are one inning short of a baseball game (ignorance has never inspired me to pass up a metaphor). Still, as the people of color start blazing into white folks terrain, I can’t help marvel at their entrance and the turmoil it causes.
Venus Williams started playing professional tennis in 1994, when she was just 16. She’s earned more than $8 million playing tennis in seven years, and millions more in endorsement money. Her sister, Serena turned pro in 1995, and has earned almost $5 million in tennis winnings to date, an amount that is dwarfed by the endorsement money she rakes in. The sisters are ranked #4 and #10 as I write, but forget the money and the rankings; they are the hottest thing that has happened to tennis. They are black, baaad, bold, and confident, so much so that, in Nikki Giovanni’s words “even their errors are correct”. Indeed, Venus Williams dropped 32 unforced errors in her first round at the US Open and barely broke a sweat. The girls are so bad that a white Sports Illu8strated Reporter is raking up the dollars for his new book, titled Venus Envy, that recounts the last year on the tennis circuit. His cover shows Venus, headless, from her chest to her upper thighs, which are locked in a tennis-ready stance. His writing hardly sizzles, but it serves up a mighty punch, especially when is offering up the inside dirt of tennis. From his title, one thing is perfectly clear – Venus Williams is the sizzle that goes with the tennis steak. She is the center of the tennis world.
It doesn’t take a book to make the point. This week’s cover of Time Magazine shouts out “The Sisters vs. the World.” There’s Venus in Reebok green, arms outstretched; Serena, blonde braids and hoop earrings flying. There’s trash-talking writing, gossip and innuendo. And two stupid Martinas (Hingis and Navratilova) doing their race-baiting best to get somebody’s goat. Hingis, the self-centered, self-described diva who has held the #1 position for 203 weeks (and refers to herself as “the Queen”), says that Venus and Serena get sponsors because they are black. They have a lot of advantage because they can always play the race card, she said. AS soon as Time Magazine hit the stands, she apologized, e1uivoated, and said she didn’t mean to hurt anybody’s feelings. She is young, white and dumb (high=school drop out, compared to the Williams’ who have undertaken post-secondary education), so what do we expect? Navratilova, on the other hand is a 45-year old lesbian who has been around the block with discrimination a few times. Why did she say the Williams’ are being handled with kid gloves because they are black? Was it her Venus Envy or her menopausal hormones acting up? Or is she truly clueless?
There are a lot of clueless people out there. They criticize the Williams girls for attitude, when their real problem is with their altitude. They say Richard Williams, the girls’ colorfully outspoken father is a pest and a pain, without acknowledging that tennis courts are littered with strange tennis dads, including rip=off artists, alcoholics, and people so disruptive they’ve been banned from the courts. Richard Williams does a little dance and talks a little stuff, but compared to the falling down drunken crooks that some tennis divas call daddy, he is relatively harmless.
The Williams family is packing harmful heat though, and that is in the presence of their tennis rackets. Venus Williams knocked off 3 top seeds in less than 27 hours, playing the strategic tennis her opponents won’t give her credit for. Serena put Capriati to bed before she came to the US Open, and though she dropped a bunch of errors, she won her match in a little over an hour. Venus and Serena don’t have to utter a syllable; all they have to do is play tennis. And play, they do, with energy, enthusiasm, and aplomb. So why is there so much hating out there?
Time magazine hardly packs the gossip wallop of People, but they reference the race card when they speak of the Williams sisters. They also say the girls may be aloof and arrogant, but any black person who has spent five minutes breathing air knows that there are a bunch of put-down “a” words used to describe us – aloof, arrogant, articulate (don’t you love it, all you have to do is string a few words together to be put down for verbal sharpness). When Time says Venus and Serena don’t blend in, they are saying more about white folks and tennis then they are about Venus and Serena.
There’s a bottom line, though. Time calls it when they say it is the Williams sisters against the world. Too often the crowd will cheer for anyone but Venus or Serena, and too often, even at a tournament like the US Open, the girls have imagine the applause that is due them. Part of their acceptance has to do with race, but even as they get muted cheers they are razing the nation’s tennis courts with their games gone ablaze. AT the end of the day, the scores tell the story, and the commentators and competitors carry tales. The sorry part of this story is the fact that this is the twenty-first century, not the nineteenth. In tennis, as in life, race still matters.