Mr. Williams Alleges Racism at Tennis Tourney

ByABC News
March 26, 2001, 3:22 PM

A R L I N G T O N, Va., March 26 -- The father of tennis stars Venus andSerena Williams told USA Today his family was subjected to racialslurs at the Indian Wells tennis tournament after Venus Williamswithdrew from a match with her sister.

In an interview conducted at the Ericsson Open, Richard Williamssaid his family was booed and taunted by a racist crowd.

"When Venus and I were walking down the stairs to our seats,people kept calling me 'nigger,"' Williams was quoted as saying intoday's editions.

"One guy said, 'I wish it was '75; we'd skin you alive.' That'swhen I stopped and walked toward that way. Then I realized that[my] best bet was to handle the situation nonviolently. I hadtrouble holding back tears. I think Indian Wells disgracedAmerica."

Boos for Serena

With just a few minutes notice, Venus withdrew from theCalifornia tournament March 15 as she was about to play her sisterin the semifinals. She said she had tendinitis in her knee, butcontroversy erupted over whether Richard Williams orchestrated thewithdrawal to steer a victory to her sister.

Serena Williams automatically advanced to the finals with her sister's withdrawal and went on to win March 17 as some in the crowd loudly booed her.

Charles Pasarell, director of the Indian Wells tournament, toldthe newspaper he was "cringing when all that stuff was going on.It was unfair for the crowd to do that."

Of the claim that the boos included racial taunting, he said:"If Richard says someone yelled something, maybe they did, but Iknow that's not Indian Wells people."

Father Maintains Daughters Are Competitive

Williams accused the media of creating controversy over thewithdrawal.

"The media is trying to nullify what Venus and Serena havedone, cast a shadow on the family," Williams told USA Today. "No,I have never asked Venus or Serena to lose a match."

Referring to the sisters' showdown last July at the Wimbledonsemifinals, he said that when Serena lost, "she cried like hell,not because someone asked her to lose but because Serena hates tolose. Venus isn't like that. When Venus loses, she walks off thecourt and is ready to get something to eat."