After losing to Simona Halep in the Wimbledon final on Saturday, Serena Williams was asked about critics–namely tennis legend Billie Jean King–who have commented that the 23-time Grand Slam champion should take a break from activism to give more of her attention to tennis.
During her post-match press conference, Williams quickly rebuked the idea, saying, "The day I stop fighting for equality and for people that look like you and me will be the day I'm in my grave."
In June, King had commented that Williams could benefit from putting "everything else aside" from tennis as she continues her quest to tie Australian Margaret court's Grand Slam title record of 24, per Metros' George Bellshaw:
"She's got business, a baby, she's trying to help gender equity, particularly for women of color, she's actually on the Billie Jean King leadership initiative, she and Venus are both advisors for it. [It makes winning a Slam] much harder. I would like to see her put everything else aside from that. She's got people working on these things."
King added that it's "not fair" to Williams to ask her to do that, but it's "just a wish I have" to see what Williams could do with tennis as her sole focus. She echoed a similar sentiment earlier in this year's Wimbledon tournament, telling the BBC earlier that Williams should give up being a celebrity for a year "just stop all this insanity."
Williams has been a vocal advocate for equal pay in women's tennis as well as equal treatment across the board.
The 37-year-old star was beaten 6-2, 6-2 in less than an hour by Halep on Saturday. The blowout loss marked the third time in the last year Williams has unsuccessfully competed for what would be her record-tying title–losing to Angelique Kerber in last year's Wimbledon final and to Naomi Osaka in the U.S. Open final.
Williams has been a vocal advocate for equality in the sport and for minorities both on and off the court, starring in Nike's "Equality" campaign alongside LeBron James in 2017 and narrating a 2019 Nike ad which featured a host of trailblazing female athletes. Williams most recently detailed a first-hand account of her controversial U.S. Open Finals match against Osaka earlier this week for Harpers Bazaar, explaining how she felt her status as a woman in the sport impacted the calls made.