Clearly the Williams sisters’ status as hard-working, world-renowned tennis champs just isn’t enough to garner everyone’s respect—not even from those who hold high professional posts in the world of tennis. Shamil Tarpischev, president of the Russian Tennis Federation (RTF) was aptly reprimanded by Serena Williams after he referred to her and her sister Venus as “the Williams brothers” during a talk show appearance on Russian State Television.
According to The Chicago Tribune, the blatant insult came when the show host said, “I was at the Olympics, where Maria Sharapova was in the final, playing with one, with one of the…,” when Tarpischev finished her sentence by saying, “…the Williams brothers,” and also referred to the sisters’ appearances as “scary.”
Tarpischev’s profound lack of professionalism and outright disrespect earned him a $25,000 fine by the Women’s Tennis Association, plus a one-year ban from any WTA tours. Eventually, he issued a formal apology, but not before expressing confusion over his punishment and downplaying his words as a “joke.” Understandably, Williams also had a few poised yet pointed comments regarding the incident.
“I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying,” she said. “I’ve done the best that I can do, and that’s all I can say. So I just wasn’t very happy with his comments. I think a lot of people weren’t happy as well.”
Fortunately, Williams wasn’t the only one to openly condemn the remark made by Tarpischev, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee. The WTA deemed his comment as “demeaning and insulting” and having “absolutely no place in our sport.” Also, Sharapova showed her support, despite having a less-than-amicable relationship with Williams. She echoed the WTA’s sentiments by saying, “It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has not just in sport, but being part of the Olympic committee. It was just really irresponsible on his side.”