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For Reviving WTA, Williams Sisters Deserve Better Treatment

The Williams sisters have done too much for the sport to be belittled by a racist Russian tennis exec.

The Donald Sterling disease is not confined to just one sport or even a sequestered region of the world.

Clearly, Russian Tennis Federation chief Shamil Tarpischev suffers from the same depths of dementia as the former L.A. Clippers owner. Why else would he ridicule the most collectively decorated women in the history of the sport and arguably the single best to ever play the game as “brothers”? Why else would he further castigate Serena and Venus Williams, easily the highest-profiled African-Americans to ever grace and uplift the tour, as “scary when you look at them”?

Alas, the man who once served as the personal tennis coach to former Russian President Boris Yeltsin appears every bit the racist— and even sexist— Sterling proved himself to be in earning his NBA lifetime ban and then some.

The WTA has already backhanded Tarpischev with a one-year suspension and a $25,000 fine, but clearly only the Donald Sterling decree will suffice here. With the powers he has and the minds he can potentially mold given his added status as the longtime chairman of the Kremlin Cup tournament, there can be no place in the game for the maddening likes of Shamil Tarpischev.

“I think the WTA did a great job of taking the initiative and taking immediate action to his comments,” Serena Williams, actually in Singapore to compete in this year’s Kremlin tournament, told ESPN on Sunday. “I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist. I thought they were in a way bullying.”

But, much like Sterling as it relates to some of the comments he made about “not bringing blacks to my games,” Tarpischev seemingly wouldn’t take back one word if even afforded the chance. When pressed on the issue, he defended his maliciousness by contending his sentiments were uttered on a “humorous show,” free of any “malicious intent” and “taken out of context.”

How strange it is that those always spewing all the wretchedness never seem to internalize the effects all their vulgarities might ultimately come to have on their targeted victims. The Williams sisters are indeed marvels to behold, but not for any of the outlandish, illogical reasons the obviously intellectually sophomoric Tarpischev seems to have socialized.

Now at 33-years-old, Serena Williams continues to dominate the game as if she wrote and still owns the patent. The world’s reigning top-ranked player won six titles last year, including the US Open, pushing her career on-court earnings to upwards of $60 million and making her the tour’s biggest— male or female— active Majors winner at 33. Venus Williams is also a former world No. 1 ranked player and holds seven Grand Slam singles titles and four U.S. gold medals of her own.

But even more than all the gold they’ve collected, the Williams sisters are largely seen as the most decorated women in the history of the game based on being among its biggest trendsetters. It’s their rise and standing in the sport that has opened doors for the growing number of other African-Americans who can now call themselves pro tour players. It’s their graceful combination of speed and power that has forevermore revolutionized the way the game heretofore in ways that were never accepted before.

In the face of such royalty, even some of the sister’s greatest arch-enemies have felt compelled to speak out in defense of their status.

“I think they were very disrespectful and uncalled for,” Russia’s own Maria Sharapova said of Tarpischev’s words. “I’m glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA. 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.”

Shamil Tarpischev’s run of bigotry must now come to end. Consider it the Donald Sterling universal rule of law.

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