Serena Williams has slammed Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpishchev for referring to her and elder sister Venus as ‘Williams Brothers’ during an interview this week.
Tarpishchev appeared on a Russian state TV show on Friday, and when the host said, ‘I was at the Olympics, where Maria Sharapova was in the final, playing with one, with one of the…,’ he interrupted with ‘Williams Brothers,’ adding that ‘It’s scary when you really look at them.’
Tarpishchev’s comments immediately earned him condemnations and punishments. First, he was punished by the Women’s Tennis Association, banned from working in an organizational role for one year by the International Olympic Committee, and fined $25,000. He was also forced to apologize by the WTA and he complied, even though he maintained that his comments were ‘taken out of context.’
On Sunday, Williams addressed the issue during a press conference for the WTA Finals in Singapore, saying that Tarpishchev was being ‘sexist’ and ‘racist.’
‘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,’ she said. ‘I’ve done the best that I can do, and that’s all I can say. So I just wasn’t very happy with his comments. I think a lot of people weren’t happy as well.’
‘But the WTA and the USTA [United States Tennis Association] did a wonderful job of making sure that — in this day of age, 2014, for someone with his power, it’s really unacceptable to make such bullying remarks.’
Russian tennis superstar Maria Sharapova – who has famously feuded with Serena on several occasions – also condemned her compatriot’s remarks, saying, ‘I think they were very disrespectful and uncalled for, and I’m glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA. It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has not just in sport, but being part of the Olympic committee.’