UK Guardian Newspaper - racism in Tennis - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 01:59 PM Thread Starter
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UK Guardian Newspaper - racism in Tennis

Tennis is racist - it's time we did something about it

As race courses through the veins of tennis, people pretend it doesn't exist

Martin Jacques
Wednesday June 25, 2003

When Serena Williams was beaten by Justine Henin-Hardenne in the French Open semi-final, she was booed every time she questioned a decision - even when she was clearly in the right. And, towards the end of the match, every first serve she missed was greeted with loud cheers.

Unsurprisingly, Williams was reduced to tears. At the end, she was booed off, just as her sister Venus had been after her defeat by Russia's Vera Zvonareva in the fourth round. Various explanations were offered to explain the crowd 's hostility to Serena, including support for the underdog and the number of Belgians there. Both were no doubt part of the explanation but the most likely - racism - barely got a mention.

The antipathy of a tennis crowd is hardly a new experience for the Williams sisters In the semi-finals of the US Open last year, the American crowd supported Amélie Mauresmo of France rather than Venus: for the overwhelmingly white, middle-class crowd, the bond of colour clearly counted for more than the bond of nation.

During a second round match at this year 's Roland Garros, when a blonde American teenager, Ashley Harkleroad, knocked out Daniela Hantuchova, the Eurosport commentator, a former player, excitedly de clared that perhaps America had found the women 's champion it was looking for. And the Williams sisters, pray? Sorry, wrong colour.

At the Indian Wells final in 2001, Serena was jeered the moment she appeared on court and was booed throughout. Her father, Richard, described how, as "Venus and I were walking down the stairs to our seats, people kept calling me ****. One guy said, 'I wish it was '75 [alluding to the Los Angeles race riots ] we'd skin you alive.'"

None of this should be surprising. Tennis is an overwhelmingly white middle-class sport, both in those who play and those who watch. Until the Williams' emergence, the only previous black grand-slam champions were Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and Yannick Noah. Western societies - be they European or American - are deeply racist: notwithstanding that veneer of politeness and refinement, the middle-class is certainly no exception.

Although Venus and Serena got a warm reception in their opening matches at Wimbledon, the fact is there will be few brown or black faces in the crowd, and little understanding or sympathy for what it is like to be black from spectators, commentators or tennis reporters. For the great majority, the sisters are from an alien world compared with their white opponents.

The extraordinary thing is that this is hardly ever written or said. As race courses through the veins of tennis, people pretend it doesn't exist. Instead the Williams sisters, together with their father, are subjected to a steady stream of criticism, denigration, accusation and innuendo: their physique is somehow an unfair advantage (those of Afro descent are built differently), they are arrogant and aloof (they are proud and self-confident), they are not popular with the other players (they come from a very different culture and, let us not forget, there is plenty of evidence of racism among their colleagues: comments made by Martina Hingis spring to mind, not to mention the behaviour of Lleyton Hewitt towards a black linesman in last year 's US Open).

And Richard, a man of some genius, is painted as a ridiculous and absurd figure, match-fixer, svengali and the rest of it. Most racism - especially middle-class racism - is neither crude nor explicit but subtle and nuanced, masquerading as fair comment about personal qualities rather than the prejudice it is.

The achievement of the Williams sisters is towering. Coming from a black ghetto in Los Angeles, riven by drugs and guns, they have scaled the heights of what their father has accurately described as a "lilywhite sport ", with enormous verve and skill, and in the process have dealt with the prejudice of the tennis establishment, the players, the crowds and the media with great grace and dignity.

It is often said that one of the reasons crowds favour their opponents is that they like to side with the underdog. Yet, when the Williamses arrived on the scene, they rarely received support, even though they were the underdogs. And, by any standards, given what and where they have come from, Venus and Serena remain just that.

Now that sport has made the transition to the main stream of society and, by the same token, from the back to the front pages, it is not good enough to pretend that sport - any sport - is a culture free, value free zone. The ubiquity of racism in football is just beginning to get the attention it deserves. And so it should: football houses the biggest single manifestation of racism in most European societies. And the same goes for other sports. It is no longer good enough for reporters and commentators to turn a blind eye to racism.

Tennis - including lily-white Wimbledon - should be no exception.

Rise Sparkle and Shine

Last edited by All4Williams; Jun 25th, 2003 at 02:07 PM.
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post #2 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:20 PM
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Maybe there is racial hostility in tennis, but no more so than in any other sport or indeed any everyday situation in any part of the globe.

The reason it manifests itself most in sports is that when the adrenaline starts to flow, people lose their self-control and start to act on their most basic instincts (in other words they act without thinking). And racial hostility is a fundamental human instinct that is programmed into all of us. Don't try to deny it.

Surely by understanding and embracing the fact that racism is a built-in human trait and cannot be changed, we can nullify the psychological effects of racist comments and behaviour.

In other words, all Serena Williams needs to do is say to herself "Oh well, they're only human, they're getting excited and losing control over their natural racist tendencies, they can't help it so I'll forgive them and won't take offence" then she would no longer need to be affected by such behaviour as she was at the French Open.

If she wants to be the world's best tennis player you would think she would try to train herself in some basic psychological and mental toughness techniques like this one.
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post #3 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:20 PM
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you forgot to mention it's only a Guardian Comment, so no official article.

Martin Jacques is the former editor of Marxism Today btw, so very biased & hardly a well informed journalist, i guess.

Better check someone who doesn't have a political (extreme) view on it, and who knows more about the situation.

btw: i'm socialist, so you couldn't say i hate lefties

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post #4 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:21 PM
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It's up to the tennis authorities to do more. Over here we have the Kick Racism out of Football campaign who put a lot of hard work into promoting multicultural and multi faith awareness into the game for Football, what surprises me is that there aren't any initiatives like this in tennis.

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post #5 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:22 PM
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I don't think Rubin ever got booed by a crowd. I still don't believe in this racism thing. Well there's always a minority, but what happened at the French was something else. Even Serena herself makes a distinction between Indian Wells and the French
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post #6 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:25 PM
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"Comments by Martina Hingis spring to mind"

???

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post #7 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:29 PM
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my god, why is it always linked to racism???? i mean if the crowd doesn't like a player, and they boo them, it's not because of their skin, its because they just dont like them. the french crowd didnt want to see Serena win again, and wanted justine as their new chanmpion, so they did everything they could have done to achieve this. does Serena get booed everytime she steps foot on court? no, so it's not a race issue. it's just maybe ignorant people, or roudy people

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post #8 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:31 PM
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and why was that same crowd cheering on Yannick Noah for so long?

controlfreak has a point, in sport, people tend to lose control and basic instincts kick in. David Beckham gets lots of insults thrown at him, people wishing his kid would get cancer, that kind of thing. Had he been black, the insults would have been different and probably very racist. Either way, he'd get insults. People just look at the easiest way to insult a person, in the case of a black person, a racist comment is the easiest. It's absolutely disgusting and these kind of people shouldn't be given the platform to get rid of their hatred in such a way.

Anyway, I believe the Williams sisters would have received just as much criticism had they been white, they'd have crowds against them even then. I do believe the insults would be different and that certain people who can't stand them now would like them, also that people who love them now, would hate them. I think these two compensate one another.

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post #9 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Naldo
my god, why is it always linked to racism???? i mean if the crowd doesn't like a player, and they boo them, it's not because of their skin, its because they just dont like them. the french crowd didnt want to see Serena win again, and wanted justine as their new chanmpion, so they did everything they could have done to achieve this. does Serena get booed everytime she steps foot on court? no, so it's not a race issue. it's just maybe ignorant people, or roudy people
Naldo, with all due respect a little sensitivity and acceptance will take you a long way...Dont act as if you know when in fact you have never been in the position. Try to listen and understand that it is not always "crying wolf" but a legitimate cry for awareness...Please dont be so quick to brush it off...take it from a person who knows...

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post #10 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:45 PM
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There's much that's true in this article, and I do think a lot of the bizarre hostility comes from racism, but I don't think crowds never support them. I've been at many matches in NY where the crowd supports V & S vociferously, also in Florida... and let's remember, at least in the US, the crowds are not always "lily-white" anymore. Partly because of V&S, the audience for tennis is much more diverse than it used to be.
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post #11 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:46 PM
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Finally, someone speaking the TRUTH. Whatever paper this author writes for, it doesn't take away the fact that what he says is true. A lot of nonsense and untruths are written everyday by writers from so-called reputable papers, but I wouldn't trust what they write anymore than the liars who protest too much on this board.
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post #12 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:48 PM
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post #13 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:52 PM
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Great Smash.....

this is not to demean her in anyway....But the reality is, Chanda Rubin does not threaten the great white empire, Chanda Rubin is no a Grand Slam Champion, so she isn't a threat to the White Establishment of Tennis.

Now, once Chanda or if Chanda crosses the threashold...believe me it will change. Perhaps.

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post #14 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 02:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Naldo
my god, why is it always linked to racism???? i mean if the crowd doesn't like a player, and they boo them, it's not because of their skin, its because they just dont like them. the french crowd didnt want to see Serena win again, and wanted justine as their new chanmpion, so they did everything they could have done to achieve this. does Serena get booed everytime she steps foot on court? no, so it's not a race issue. it's just maybe ignorant people, or roudy people

you have a point its not always racism but then again sometimes it is. I want to know why do you always act as if its not racism? Did you personally go and interview each and every person in the crowd? So if not then racism could explain SOME of it. Like the fact that when serena played jen at last years french the crowd was for jen even though serena was the underdog? I guess they didn't want to see a new french open champion then huh? Funny how the williams sisters are always on the negative end of these issues.

the point is that cheering for justine could be expected but to boo and hiss and act like asses toward serena? Please. Serena did nothing wrong.

In aussieland serena did nothing wrong and they acted the same way.

oh and didn't the french boo venus after her loss because she didn't speak to their french reporter? However agassi didnt do any french interview on court after his loss so where were his boos?

The WTA Women of Wonder Featuring....The Goddess: Venus Williams The Glamazon: Serena Williams The Lioness: Jennifer Capriati The High Priestess: Monica Seles The Saint: Kim Clijsters The Phoenix: Chanda Rubin The Bon Vivant: Amelie Mauresmo The Titan: Lindsay Davenport The Courtesan: Anna Kournikova The Exile: Martina Hingis The Sorceress: Anatasia Myskina The Minx: Maria Sharapova
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post #15 of 75 (permalink) Old Jun 25th, 2003, 03:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Foot_Fault
Great Smash.....

this is not to demean her in anyway....But the reality is, Chanda Rubin does not threaten the great white empire, Chanda Rubin is no a Grand Slam Champion, so she isn't a threat to the White Establishment of Tennis.

Now, once Chanda or if Chanda crosses the threashold...believe me it will change. Perhaps.

JMHO
Well, let's hope that's not going to happen, as it would be really sad. But racism or not, the French crowd is the worst I know anyway, and it they have shown this behaviour before, not just against black players. They are just too fanatic!
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