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Serena Williams and being black in tennis

The making of the special ‘Serena with Common’ required true inspiration

There are three odes to Serena Williams featured in The Undefeated In-Depth: Serena with Common. This one, from senior blog writer Clinton Yates, considers Serena Williams as a black woman in a very white sport.


Conversations with Common: Mychal Denzel Smith


“Being black only helps them. Many times they get sponsors because they are black. And they have had a lot of advantages because they can always say, ‘It’s racism.’ They can always come back and say, ‘Because we are this color, things happen.’ ”

That’s what Martina Hingis said about Venus and Serena Williams back in 2001.

Serena Williams has talked out about what it’s like being black on the tour many, many times. She boycotted the Indian Wells Tournament for 14 years due to what she believed was bigoted treatment. She’s said that it’s not just the opponents. That it’s the crowds. The tournament organizers. Even the advertisers.

We’re talking, after all, about a sport where the most prestigious tournament in the land is one where you are required to wear white clothes.

But 22 Grand Slams later — say whatever you want. Serena Williams’ blackness is why people like her now, not why they once hated her. We’re talking, after all, about a sport where the most prestigious tournament in the land is one where you are required to wear white clothes. Surviving in that realm is no small task. And when she was called on to represent her nation in said stadium at the Olympics, she won gold. And after she did, she reminded everyone just how black she really is.

Clinton Yates is a tastemaker at The Undefeated. He likes rap, rock, reggae, R&B, and remixes — in that order.