SINGAPORE -- Serena Williams has denounced Russian tennis federation president Shamil Tarpischev's derogatory comments about her and sister Venus as racist, sexist and bullying. Tarpischev, a leading tennis official in Russia who serves on the International Olympic Committee, appeared on a Russian television show last week and referred to Serena and Venus as "the Williams Brothers."
The WTA has fined Tarpischev $25,000 -- the maximum fine possible -- and banned him from any WTA-related activities for one-year. The tour is also seeking to get him removed as the Chairman of the Board for the Kremlin Cup. "The WTA was founded on the principles of equality,opportunity and respect, and Venus and Serena embody all of these attributes," Stacey Allaster, CEO of the WTA, said in a statement. "Mr. Tarpischev’s statements questioning their genders tarnish our great game and two of our champions. His derogatory remarks deserve to be condemned and he will be sanctioned."
The USTA also issued a statement demanding a formal apology to Venus and Serena. "As the President of the Russian Tennis Federation and a member of the International Olympic Committee, Mr. Tarpischev is expected to conduct himself with the highest degree of integrity and sportsmanship," USTA Chairman David Haggerty said. "Unfortunately, his comments do not embody either of these traits and in fact were reprehensible.”
Speaking to reporters for the first time since Tarpischev's remarks, Serena backed the WTA and USTA's swift and unflinching reaction and penalties. "I think the WTA did a great job of taking initiative and taking immediate action to his comments," she told reporters at the WTA Finals. "I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were, in a way, bullying."
Maria Sharapova had strong words for Tarpischev too, for whom she's played Fed Cup for Russia for throughout her career. "I think they were very disrespectful and uncalled for, and I'm glad that many people have stood up, including the WTA," she said. "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. It was just really irresponsible on his side."
While the WTA acknowledged it had received a private letter of acknowledgement, a formal apology from Tarpischev has not come. Instead, he claims the comments were taken out of context and blown out of proportion. "I am sorry that the joke which was translated into English out of its context of a comedy show drew so much attention," he said in a statement. "I don’t think this situation is worth all the hoopla because those words were said without any malice."
According to RT.com, Tarpischev equated his joke with foreign jokes about Russian stereotypes:
In other remarks, he lamented the situation “was hyped to an absurd level” adding that Russians do not file complaints over “vodka, balalaika and bears” jokes on foreign comedy shows.
Tarpischev's comments came the same week that the ATP was forced to issue a statement distancing itself from homophobic comments made by Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov on Instagram. Dolgopolov posted a photo of Eurovision champion and drag queen Conchita Wurst, mocking her and calling her an "idiot". When fans called him out for his homophobic views, he was unrepentant.
“The recent views of Mr. Dolgopolov are regrettable and his attempt at humour was ill-conceived," the ATP said in a statement. "Mr. Dolgopolov’s views are his and his alone. The ATP does not condone such views in any way.”