Since they took over tennis more than a decade ago, Venus and Serena Williams have been the targets of criticism, speculation, and quite a few undeserved critiques from people who don’t want to see them succeed. The attacks hit a low point this week, as a leading figure in Russian tennis made some nasty remarks about the gender of the two lovely women.
The president of the Russian Tennis Federation has been fined $25,000 for referring to Venus and Serena as “the Williams brothers.” Not only has Shamil Taprischev been fined, he has also been banned for a year.
Some are baffled as to why he would make such a disrespectful remark. The comments were made during a show on Russian television, stunning the audience on the show and tennis organizers world-wide. At the time, Taprischev was sitting with retired Russian tennis player Elena Dementieva.
The question started with Dementieva being asked what it’s like to “play against one of the …”
Before the sentence was finished, Taprischev stepped in to say, “the Williams brothers.”
What he thought would be a nice joke turned tragic for him, and he is now being told to pay up for his remarks. But Taprischev seemed to have a serious tone to his remarks, stating that the Williams sisters were “scary to look at.”
Show host Ivan Urgant went on to say: “I have tremendous respect for them (the Williams) but once one of the sisters passed next to me and I found myself in her shadow for about 40 seconds.”
Since that time, everyone involved has apologized for the remarks, but the punishment still stands.
His remarks have been condemned by the WTA as “insulting” and “demeaning” against “two of the greatest athletes in the history of woman’s tennis.”
“Mr. Tarpischev’s statements questioning their genders tarnish our great game and two of our champions,” WTA Tour chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster said in a statement Friday. “His derogatory remarks deserve to be condemned and he will be sanctioned.”
The WTA also demanded a personal apology to the sisters.
Tarpischev, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee, said Saturday his comments about the Williams sisters were only meant as jokes.