Photo credits: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters
Top officials who govern athlete policy for the French Open professional tennis tournament have found themselves on the receiving end of major backlash.
Serena Williams (pictured) became the center of the French Tennis Federation’s attention over a black and red catsuit she wore this past spring during a match. Williams’ catsuit was inspired by the Marvel film Black Panther. It also has a special fit for her body, which helps prevent blood clots.
Blood clots are a circulatory problem that Williams has dealt with since giving birth. However, after Williams donned her customized athletic garb, French Tennis Federation President President Bernard Giudicelli interviewed with a sports publication to air his disdain.
“I think that, sometimes, we’ve gone too far. [Williams’ outfit] will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and place,” President Giudicelli said in an exclusive interview with Tennis Magazine.
Williams offered a reasonable and inspiring explanation for her decision to wear the catsuit.
“I’ve been wearing pants, in general, a lot when I play so I can keep the blood circulation going,” the 23-time Grand Slam winner told reporters.
“I call it my Wakanda-inspired catsuit. I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess kind of, queen from Wakanda maybe. I’ve always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero,” Williams also said.
Common social media users, bloggers, and even civil rights attorneys have publicly expressed their disgust with the French Tennis Federation’s decision to ban Williams from wearing the outfit. Many have called the ruling sports commission’s ban “sexist” and “racist.”
“Arbitrary dress code policies have been disproportionately used to target Black women in schools, at work and now on the tennis court. This is the unfair policing of Black women’s bodies,” tweeted Kristen Clarke, President of the US-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Sports apparel giant Nike is the entity that provided Williams with the catsuit. In a message on its official Twitter page, Nike expressed its unwavering support for Williams despite the controversial banning of her outfit.
“You can take the superhero out of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers. #justdoit.” Nike’s Friday (August 24) tweet read.