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.