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We Respond to Russian Tennis Federation President’s Inappropriate Remarks on Venus and Serena Williams

The Women’s Tennis Association has fined and suspended the president of the Russian Tennis Federation after he referred to Venus and Serena Williams as “the Williams brothers” during an appearance on a Russian comedy program last week. The WTA suspended Shamil Tarpischev, who also said the sisters are “scary” to look at, for one year and fined him $25,000, the maximum allowed under its rules. The organization is also examining his role in the Kremlin Cup, a top Russian tournament.

Tarpischev also holds a position with the International Olympic Committee, which said Monday that it has asked Tarpischev for an explanation and could take further action.

While preparing for the WTA Finals in Singapore, Serena Williams praised the WTA’s action and blasted Tarpischev for the “sexist and racist” remarks.

“I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time,” Williams said, according to the New York Times. “I thought they were in a way bullying. 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.”

“I think the WTA did a great job of taking (the) initiative and taking immediate action to his comments,” Williams added, according to the Associated Press.

The Women’s Sports Foundation commends the Women’s Tennis Association and the United States Tennis Association for boldly stepping in around the inappropriate and demeaning comments said about Venus and Serena Williams. There is no place for disparaging comments toward any athlete in sports. The WSF believes that sports participants on all levels – whether No. 1 in the world or a first-year player in a local league – should receive a fun, healthy and safe environment to play – free of physical and verbal abuse.