What Serena Williams' Catsuit Ban Says About Race And Tradition In Tennis

Aug 29, 2018

With Meghna Chakrabarti

Serena Williams, that catsuit and testing the lines of tennis traditions.


Caitlin Thompson, co-founder and publisher of Racquet Magazine. (@caitlin_thomps)

Zina Garrison, retired professional tennis player. (@beyondthegold)

Katrina Adams, president and CEO of the United States Tennis Association. She’s the first African-American to hold the office. Retired professional tennis player. (@katadams68)

Sarah Jackson, professor of communication studies at Northeastern University. Author of “Black Celebrity, Racial Politics and the Press.” (@sjjphd)

From The Reading List

Yahoo: “Serena Williams responds to catsuit ban by wearing designer tutu during US open” — “Leave it to Serena Williams to respond to her catsuit ban in the most epic way.

“The 36-year-old tennis champion won her first match at the US Open on Monday, swapping out her usual catsuit for a tutu worthy of a ballerina.

“Just days earlier, Williams was told she was banned from wearing the body compression suit she wore to the French Open in 2018, despite it being designed to help prevent blood clots.

“The tutu dress came specially designed by Virgil Abloh, the founder of Off-White and current artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear, bringing a high fashion twist to the court.”

USA Today: “Solid start at US Open for Serena Williams, who couldn’t wait to go see her daughter” — “Each Grand Slam comes with its own pluses and minuses, and the US Open is no exception to that reality.

“One of the hardest aspects of this tournament is that the venue is in the borough of Queens and the hotel accommodations are in Manhattan. Traffic or no traffic, getting to where the matches are played is not a quick trip around the corner.

“In contrast, at the three other Grand Slams — the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon — players tend to stay in either nearby hotels or short-term apartment rentals closer to the courts.

“‘Today was a weird day for me,’ Serena Williams said on the court Monday night after winning her first-round match 6-4, 6-0 against Magda Linette of Poland. ‘I left my hotel and didn’t get to say goodbye to (daughter) Olympia, but I get to go back now and see her.’ ”

CNN: “Serena Williams is being policed for her blackness” — “In the 21st century, black people are still subjected to forms of racial discrimination that feel — and should be — things of the past. White standards of beauty still dictate that the features of black people are undesirable and their cultural styles are inappropriate and unacceptable. The unfair, arbitrary treatment that tennis great Serena Williams recently received from the French Open over her iconic black ‘catsuit’ is a case in point.

“Williams first wore the outfit in May during her first grand slam match since giving birth. Without a proper explanation, French officials announced in the 500th edition of Tennis magazine they would ban Williams’ catsuit from the tennis tournament. ‘I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far,’ French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli said, adding that Williams’ catsuit ‘will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.’ ”

PBS NewsHour: “In tennis, a long history of white elitism has not stopped black women from winning” — “Hours after tennis champion Serena Williams on Saturday shrugged off a decision by the president of the French Open to ban her attire, she was taking a selfie with the first-ever black president of the U.S. Tennis Association at a stadium dedicated to the only black man to win Wimbledon.

“Williams and three other women of color — her sister Venus Williams, along with Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens — are representing America this week at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens for the 50th annual Grand Slam championship. Yet, their talents and prestige do not shield them from the sport’s legacy of elitism.”

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