Serena Williams is the greatest tennis player alive, and arguably of all time. Serena Williams is a champion, an icon, an inspiration. Serena Williams is, to many, the face of professional tennis. Serena Williams is a scandal-free queen who has earned the right to play the game naked if she wants to. And now some French guy is saying that she can’t wear the black catsuit that Nike designed specifically for her to prevent life-threatening blood clots?
Last night, the Associated Press reported that Bernard Giudicelli, president of the French Tennis Federation, is planning to impose new uniform rules on players for the French Open (a tournament that Williams has won not once, not twice, but thrice), saying, “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far.” Which would perhaps be understandable if he’d added that the organization will work with athletes to make sure that everyone is comfortable and safe. But that is not what he said. Instead, Giudicelli singled out the black catsuit Williams wore at the 2018 French Open and declared, “It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.”
So, apparently a chic, form-fitting all-black ensemble is...disrespectful to a tournament held in Paris, land of a thousand all-black ensembles? And it’s not okay for a tennis player to wear...a garment that helps her play tennis? Williams has suffered for years from blood clots. They’ve taken her out of the game, and when she gave birth to her daughter, Alexis Olympia, a pulmonary embolism nearly took her life. The Nike-made suit wasn’t just a nod to Black Panther (although the movie did partly inspire its creation), it was also a compression suit that helped Williams’s circulation.
And by the way, Williams knows whereof she speaks when she talks about her match outfits. Two years ago, she even launched her own bra line because there was only one brand in the world that made sports bras that kept her chest secure during matches. She and her team are a lot more thoughtful about these matters than a poorly judged comment with sexist, racist overtones from an administrator.