At the U.S. Open last September, tennis champion Serena Williams received a series of code violations, including one for slamming her racket and receiving coaching, which ultimately cost her the match. When Williams tried to complain to the umpire, she was accused of having a "meltdown" and mocked for having a "tantrum." Williams is arguably the strongest, most accomplished athlete of all time — and yet, she was still reduced to an irrational, "angry Black woman" stereotype.
Williams' response to all the media attention? "I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that want to express themselves and they want to be a strong woman. They’re gonna be allowed to do that because of today," Williams told reporters after the match. "Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s gonna work out for the next person."
Williams' sentiment is all too familiar. Historically, Black women in sports have faced numerous hurdles like this — from segregated tennis matches to penalties for uniforms deemed "too much" for sports. But, as Williams said, for every athlete who overcomes a hurdle, there's an opportunity for a future generation to learn.