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Serena Severely Penalized by 99 Percent White World Tennis Association for Maternity Leave

One must wonder just what in the hell is wrong with tennis.


Twenty-one white people (including seven male board members and CEO Steve Simon) of a total of 22 people in the World Tennis Association's (WTA) management made the call to boot Serena Williams from seeding for the French Open for having a baby.

If this isn't a slap toward Black motherhood, Black lives and Black success in the sport, what is?

Serena Williams, the 23-time Grand Slam champion, who was originally ranked No. 1, stepped away from tennis to have her daughter, Olympia, and recover from life-threatening complications for 14 months.

She currently has a world ranking of No. 453 as a result of her maternity leave and the WTA's decision, and she will now have to play the top seeds first, while other players work their way up to the top seed opponents.

When she returned to the sport in March, she achieved her first win post-baby at the Indian Wells Masters in California on International Women's Day. But haters are going to hate.

The French Open is choosing to follow the WTA rule of rankings to determine tournament seedings (they could've opted to seed her), while fellow players protest. Simona Halep, the current lead in rankings, said to the press, “It's normal to give birth. It's normal to have protected ranking … in my opinion it's good to protect the ranking when someone is giving birth."

A petition for the French Open to change her seed is already rapidly gaining momentum.

Even Maria Sharapova, Williams' rival, said to the media at the Italian Open that the rule needs to change. Returning from pregnancy requires “… such an incredible effort for a woman to come back from physically, emotionally," she said.

Many are arguing that the rule punishes women, and Williams told the New York Times that women should not have to sacrifice having a personal life for tennis. “It's more of a protection for women to have a life."

But Williams is no stranger to punishment. She has faced much discrimination as a leading Black female tennis player, along with her sister Venus, for years. The WTA and French Open just decided to reinforce it by giving her a back seat.

The Conversation (5)
Dan's last response29 May, 2018
I agree with rbensinger. Their rules are old and outdated, but this wasn't about race. I also hope the WTA updates their rules. And I still say Serena might be the most dominant athlete of our times.
28 May, 2018
It's hard to dispute that Serena (and Venus for that matter) have been the targets of racial discrimination over the years but this article really misses the mark by framing this as racially motivated (i.e.: 99% white WTA...a slap toward black motherhood). This is a question of how maternity leave can derail a female player's ranking and temporarily, her career. I can see arguments on both sides. Supporting the current policy are points like: why should the rest the field be deprived of moving into the absent player's spot since they are working hard and competing while Serena, for example has chosen to take significant time off. The mention of her injury as a potential factor is irrelevant. Players don't get to freeze their ranking if they're out hurt. Seeding at tournaments is a meritocracy based on recent (12 mos) performance. Past tennis mothers like Lindsey Davenport and Kim Clisters, who are white, came back to have success post childbirth. The seeding rules for them were the same as they are for Serena. Serena, like other great champions will be given an exemption at the French Open insuring that she gets to play regardless of her low current ranking. True, she'll have to play a ranked player early but Serena only plays to win; she'll have to win against all opponents to raise the trophy. Injecting race into this situation chips away at the valuable credibility of DiversityInc., slightly undermining future claims of racial injustice. Lastly, if the WTA were to freeze rankings for maternity leave, they better be ready to do it for fathers who want to take time off to be with their child. I think in the common workplace, it's one thing but in sports competition, that's a slippery slope.
27 May, 2018
This is a strong African American woman who deserves respect for this talent that she has and the WTA you our full of yourselves.
John Hoade24 May, 2018
The world is watching the WTA! Shame on them!
James Buckner23 May, 2018
How can I register a complaint with the WTA?

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