Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova criticized Russian International Olympic Committee member Shamil Tarpischev for comments about the Williams sisters.
Tarpischev, also president of the Russian Tennis Federation, was suspended from any tour involvement for one year and fined the maximum $25,000 by the women’s WTA tour yesterday after he called Venus and Serena Williams the “Williams brothers” on a Russian talk show last week.
The WTA is also seeking to have him removed as chairman of the Kremlin Cup event for a year. The dominant players of their generation, the Williams sisters have won 25 Grand Slam singles championships between them and have both been ranked No. 1.
The remarks were “very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist,” top-ranked Serena Williams told reporters today in Singapore, where she is playing in the season-ending WTA Championships. “They were in a way bullying.”
Shamil Tarpischev, president of the Russian Tennis Federation, referred to Serena and Venus Williams as the “Williams brothers” on a Russian television program last week, the New York Times reported.
Second-ranked Sharapova of Russia, who has played in the Fed Cup under Tarpischev, called his comments “very disrespectful and uncalled for.”
“I’m glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA,” Sharapova said at a news conference in Singapore today. “It was very inappropriate, especially in his position and all the responsibilities that he has not just in this sport, but being part of the Olympic committee. It was just really irresponsible on his side.”
The IOC didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Tarpischev outside of normal business hours. The 66-year-old has been a member of the IOC since 1994.
WTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stacey Allaster said Oct. 17 that “the statements made by Shamil Tarpischev on Russian television with respect to two of the greatest athletes in the history of women’s tennis are insulting, demeaning and have absolutely no place in our sport.”
Dave Haggerty, U.S. Tennis Association chairman, called on Tarpischev to issue a formal apology to the sisters.
Tarpischev praised their achievements and mastery of the sport in a statement confirmed by the Russian tennis federation.
“I regret that the joke, which was taken out of the context of a comic show when translated into English, was the focus of so much attention,” he said in the statement. “I don’t believe that this story deserves this uproar. Everything was said live without any ill intent.”