During “First Take” on ESPN2 on Tuesday, co-host Stephen A. Smith responded to the criticism that women’s tennis player Serena Williams receives, as well as the fact that Russian tennis player Maria Sharapova makes $10 million more than Williams, despite her dominance in women’s tennis over the years getting her close to breaking the all-time record for singles majors titles.
Smith made it known that this is not a racism issue, but instead a sexism issue. He then pointed out that the reason Sharapova gets more money is because of looks, because Williams has a thicker physique and has a different wardrobe. Smith then said that the black community has “no problem with how Serena Williams looks” and that if Williams was white, her endorsements would be “exponentially bigger and better.”
“I believe that she is appreciated. I believe that she is respected, but I’ll be very, very clear and unapologetically saying this, if she were white it would be exponentially bigger and better. This woman has 21 singles majors titles. We all know Steffi Graf’s got, I think it’s about 22. Margaret Court’s got the all-time record in 24. Serena Williams is expected to break that record of grand slam titles. I mean, this woman is absolutely, positively sensational. When you look at what she has accomplished, we live in a society that refuses to recognize that disparity from time to time.”
“People are talking about racism or whatever. No, that’s not what I’m talking about here,” he went on to say. “Being a black male, born and raised in the streets of New York City, with black folks all the time because I’m one of them and that’s who I’m usually hanging with, we have absolutely no problem with how Serena Williams looks. I will be the first to tell you, let me be very, very clear, but there is always some kind of comment about her physique, her wardrobe, etc. With all due respect, that ain’t coming from us. Now, why is that? I don’t know. But I do know that when you look at her success and what she has accomplished and the level of dominance that she continues to exhibit year after year after year, she should be second to no one.”
Smith continued, “In any category. when it comes to women’s tennis, whether it be on the marketing side or beyond, and the fact that she is second to Maria Sharapova, the fact that people say the things that they have said about her, that they seem to go out of their way to bring attention to things other than the performance, it ain’t just about race. It’s about sex as well, meaning gender, OK? There’s more sexism than it is anything else.”
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