View Full Version : Williams sisters civil trial under way

Dec 3rd, 2005, 11:27 PM
I wasn't sure if this has already been posted but I thought it was very interesting.

Williams sisters civil trial under way
By Jane Musgrave

Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

Thursday, December 01, 2005

UPDATED: 3:14 p.m. December 01, 2005

It was supposed to be a reprise of the historic 1973 match pitting women's tennis great Billy Jean King against male tennis had-been Bobby Riggs.

Instead, the so-called Battle of the Sexes II featuring Venus and Serena Williams against unnamed male tennis stars did nothing but produce a lawsuit that began playing out in Palm Beach County Circuit Court on Thursday.

On one side are unknown promoters -- Carol Clarke and Keith Rhodes -- who claim the Palm Beach Gardens residents and their father signed a contract in 2001 to compete in the match that the promoters estimated could net $45 million.

On the other side, are the two sisters and their father, Richard, who claim Clarke and Rhodes are nothing more than opportunists who took advantage of their friendship.

After three days of jury selection, both sides faced off in what is expected to be a month-long trial.

To the disappointment of courtroom watchers, the trial began without the famous sisters.

They are competing in a charity event out of state, said attorney Jan Morris, who is representing Richard Williams.

However, he said, both sisters, who are among the top-ranked tennis players in the world, will testify as will their father. Further, he said, former tennis greats Jimmy Connor and John McEnroe may be called to testify by attorneys representing Clarke and Rhodes.

Whether he testifies or not, McEnroe's insistence that he could beat the sisters will hover over the trial.

His claim spurred IMG, one of the biggest sports management firms in the world, to pitch the idea of a sequel to the King-Riggs match, which drew the largest ever live audience for a tennis match and attracted 50 million prime-time television viewers.

When IMG officials got wind that Clarke and Rhodes were trying to organize a similar match involving the Williams sisters, they cried foul, claiming they represented the sisters, said attorney John Romano, who represents the would-be match promoters.

In an email to Richard Williams, an IMG official pointed out that the Williams sisters had rejected McEnroe's challenge, believing it wouldn't help their careers and could hurt them if they lost.

But, Romano claimed, IMG's protests came too late. By the time they objected, the sisters and their father had signed a contract with Rhodes and Clarke. And, he said, by law, they had to honor it.

The Williams countered that the promoters, who formed the company CCKR to promote the ill-fated match, didn't honor the terms of the contract, including a provision to pay them $500,000 two months after the contract was signed.