Why then has the extraordinary success of Venus and Serena been routinely accompanied by controversy and flat out resentment? Why are these talented, intelligent, attractive young ladies the least popular players on the tour? Was Venus' sudden withdrawal before a match sufficient cause for Serena to be subjected to a cascade of jeering rather than cheering as she earned a championship at Indian Wells earlier this year? And even if the circumstances of that day were somewhat suspicious, why was it reported that words far more offensive than "boo" were yelled at Serena?
Some would blame the perceived "unladylike" arrogance of the Williams sisters, demonstrated by the fact that they rarely credit losses to superior play by their opponents, and the audacity they showed in turning down lucrative endorsements until the stakes grew sufficiently lofty. Others would cite envy of Venus and Serena, who seem less dedicated than those they routinely annihilate because they play in considerably less tournaments than their top ten peers. There are those who are convinced that the outcome of matches between Venus and Serena are fixed, depending on whose turn it has been determined to be the victor. A few people probably had a problem with the beads once worn in their hair, or the colorful form fitting outfits they don to better exhibit their tall, lean, muscular physiques. Would someone be playing the so called race card in claiming that the brown skin of Venus and Serena is at the root of the troubles they find, or simply stating the obvious? There do happen to be folks on the professional tennis circuit who have predominantly positive comments to make about the Williams sisters. There actually are players who do not form competitive alliances against them, such as was admittedly done by Lindsey Davenport and Martina Hingis during last year's US Open. But even the majority of these people cease to compliment and start expressing disapproval towards the architect of the Williams master plan - Papa Williams.
When Richard Williams encounters racism, such as he said he did at Indian Wells, he is not shy about bringing it up and shouting it down. When he merely suspects that he detects it, such as when Irina Spirlea bumped into Venus during a changeover, he does not hesitate to brand her "a big, tall, white turkey", nor to contend that the incident was motivated by a broader racist attitude on the tour. He did later apologize for insulting Spirlea, but he is never apologetic about exposing racism, nor about exhibiting excessive pride to the point of gloating over his daughters' accomplishments. Richard Williams has been blamed for and accused of many things, but subtlety is not one of them. This is a man who has attended matches sporting signs that read "It couldn't have happened to a nicer family" and "I told you so". This is a man who once went on to the court and performed a celebratory dance on behalf of Venus while her vanquished opponent stormed off. Richard Williams has not chosen to hold his tongue about additional fees he feels his daughters should receive due to the greatly expanded fan base they are wholly responsible for bringing to tennis, much as Tiger Woods has done in golf. Speaking of Tiger, it is natural to compare his feats and impact to that of Venus and Serena. They do after all share the ability to win virtually at will and often with great ease; a plethora of lucrative endorsements; a Jackie Robinson like effect on the formerly lily white sports they have come to dominate; and unique names that match the flair of their playing styles. Yet even Earl Woods, father of Tiger, has been critical about the antics of Richard Williams and how Venus and Serena's behavior reflects poorly on their upbringing.
The more Richard Williams shouts to be given his due, to have the near miracle he has accomplished be properly acknowledged, the more scorn and derision he invites. And some of it inevitably spills over on to his daughters whether they deserve it or not. Instead of the genius who managed to put two of his children simultaneously in the upper echelons of tennis, enabling them to earn fortune and fame, he is cast in the villainous role of detriment to their brilliant and apparently limitless careers. There will probably be no end to the stream of conspiracy theorists and Martinas like Navratilova and Hingis who claim that rather than being held down by race, Richard takes advantage of it in a politically correct climate to get away with what others would be crucified for. And they probably do make some valid points, even while mostly missing the point.
Being who he is, and his relationship with the media being what it is, even with his lower profile Richard Williams still manages to steal headlines away from his daughters from time to time. For example...