Serena Williams isn't just a female athlete; she's a female athlete who paved the way for other women in athletics. She (and her sister, Venus) made women's tennis what it is today. Besides being incredible athletes (both as a duo and individually), they brought their own unique personalities to the court. From their style of play to their outfits — Serena Williams is a star both on and off the court.
What makes Serena even more popular among fans is her extensive friends list. From being besties with Kim Kardashian, to appearing Beyoncé's video for "Sorry," to marrying Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian — Serena is one famous lady.
But let's get down to the reason of this article, shall we?
Last week was the beginning of the French Open. And now that Serena took the time off from giving birth to her daughter and rehabbing an injury, she took the court May 29th, winning three of the matches she played in. On June 2nd, however, Serena sat down for a press conference to talk about her wins and what the status of her play would be further in the tournament. It was then that longtime sports journalist, Bill Simmons, asked this:
"I have been waiting about 14 years to ask you this question. After the 2004 Wimbledon match with Maria, I had the opportunity to interview [the POTUS] on his LA golf course, and he said that Maria’s shoulder were incredibly alluring and then he came up with this incredible analysis: That you were intimidated by her super model good looks. My question is: Have you ever been intimidated by anyone on a tennis court, and what are your thoughts about that occurrence?"
Needless to say: Twitter exploded.
15 Bill's Apology
After Bill asked his ridiculous question to Serena Williams, she handled the question like a boss. "I honestly don’t have any thoughts about that. I can’t say I have been intimidated by anyone. That’s all. That’s it"
However, regardless of how Serena responded, sports fans everywhere were appalled by Simmons question. For someone who's been in the sports world for years, one would think he would have asked her literally any other question than if she's intimidated by an opponents super model good looks. Like, is he kidding me? Out of all the questions in the world to ask this woman — that was it...
Since no one was pleased with Simmons (and I mean no one), he had to publicly apologize on Twitter. And um, let's just say it was the apology that no one desired. His questions weren't "awkward" (as he so awkwardly put), his questions were degrading... off-putting... off topic... and yes, misogynistic.
I'm sure deep down this dude is a well-intentioned guy. It's clear he has a great job and has been working in tennis for years. It's also clear that he is a fan of Serena (as everyone is), but if he cares about her as much as he's claiming — he would have thought a more though-out question than that.
14 Maybe We're Looking Too Into It?
While most of Twitter is pissed beyond repair, there are a select few people supporting Simmons. This girl above isn't necessarily backing what Simmons said, but she is saying what he said was taking out of jest.
Besides his "awkward" question about being intimidated by Maria's model looks, he also referred to her as "baby."
"Bill Simons: I know you want to get back to Olympia, work with me here, please.
Serena Williams: Work with me (smiling.)
Simmons: We’re in this together, baby."
@LuciaHoff is claiming that people need to settle down and that Bill was just joking around with Serena. However, other Twitter users were not a fan of his relaxed behavior. Some even claim lack of professionalism, and that if Serena were a man, he would have never said "baby." Now, I can't say what Simmons and Williams' relationship is. He's been working in Tennis a long time, maybe they've had more contact than people thing, where saying "baby" is okay. But, I think it's needless to say, no one was a fan of it. Except for maybe this girl above who say sometimes journalists and athletes banter playfully like so.
I know if I were Serena... I'd not be a fan.
13 Don't Call Her Baby
In case there are any non tennis fans out there, let me just explain what a big deal Serena is.
She is a 23 times Grand Slam champion and holds the most titles for singles and doubles, and trust me — there's more where that comes from. Serena is all business on the court and her training shows.
“Luck has nothing to do with it, because I have spent many, many hours, countless hours, on the court working for my one moment in time, not knowing when it would come.”
For someone with so much experience professionally and has won countless awards, you would expect professionals in the business to approach her with similar respect. While I'm sure most reporters do, this is something Bill completely lacked. I mean, for someone who has been waiting 14 years for this opportunity, this is what he asked her? And then on top of that, to call her baby? Um, hi Bill! That is more than "awkward," it's degrading.
Serena is a queen and deserves to be treated as such. Let's keep the questions about her play-time, her training, her nourishment, and her mindset. Let's not take outside factors and turn them into insulting questions that are meaningless.
12 Good Point
Considering this is the French Opening and Serena won her first three matches, why would you—as a journalist—ask her if she's intimidated by her next opponent due to her LOOKS?!
If you want to go the intimidation route, why not ask her who in the game she's intimidated by? Or what other athlete in the league is training as hard as her? Or what about playing Maria Sharapova is intimidating to her.
Don't ask her if she's intimidated BECAUSE of the way Maria looks?! Like, Bill, what were you thinking, dude? Plus, she just won her first three matches! so why are you asking if she's essentially scared to play the next round?
As a professional, you have to be better than that. Also, just like @LulitMT notes, Simmons has Serena as his profile picture. I know he's a real fan of hers and all that, but his questions and demeanor did not follow suit.
I don't think this is something that would make Bill lose his job, after all, everyone makes mistakes, and I do truly believe he respects Serena. But this interview did NOT go well, and the backlash is running thick. When it comes to women empowerment — it's never been stronger. So Bill should start running...
11 She Really Is
I remember being a little girl, watching Serena and Venus play doubles (back in the day). I didn't love the sister-duo because they we just great at tennis. I loved them because they made tennis cool. They did!
They were the first ones to really bring their own style to the court. They always word beautiful gold necklaces, amazing beads in their hair, earrings — they showed the world that you can work your butt off, succeed, and look good while doing it. They also always wore bright colors — which truly livened up the game.
They were inspirational beyond measure — they still are.
What also makes Serena different is her self-confidence; she knows her worth and doesn't care what countless people say about her body for being strong.
"Think of all the girls who could become top athletes but quit sports because they’re afraid of having too many defined muscles and being made fun of or called unattractive," she once said. Now think of where Serena is today and how she shut the chatter out to become one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Think of all the little girls who are out there in the same position she was, working hard to make a difference, all because Serena is their icon.
10 Would He?
I honestly think I give WAY too many people the benefit of the doubt. I always believe people have the right intentions even when they mess up a million times. So while Bill Simmons completely messed up his chance to shine in front of Serena, I do think this can be used as a learning experience. Not just with Bill, but with all reporters.
When you're thinking of a question for an athlete, think to yourself "Could I ask this question to both men and women?" If the answer is yes, then go for it! Shoot your shot! But if the answer is "eh, maybe," then skip it and write a new question.
Bringing up Maria's "super model" good looks and if THAT'S why Serena could be intimidated by her is such a load of BS. Serena is the best player in the world — if she was intimidated by anyone, it would be by their statistics or their style of play; it wouldn't be because she's pretty... Like, the more I talk about it, the more I'm baffled by the fact that this was a question thought of by a professional.
If Bill said something similar to a fellow male athlete, he'd probably say something sassy and why someone's looks had ANYTHING to do with playing. SMH.
9 Just STOP Where You Are
Before Bill even asked his question to Serena, he lost all respect for calling Serena "Baby."
Now, I don't know the kind of relationship Bill and Serena have. Many professional athletes get to know the journalists they see time and time again at games and tournaments. Sometimes, these athletes and writers become friendly enough to have this kind of banter or even an inside scoop.
But something tells me Bill and Serena aren't that close.
By him bringing up Olympia (Serena's daughter), I feel like that was his way of trying to normalize the situation... to lighten her up a bit. There's no way a mother wouldn't smile when thinking about leaving work to see her baby daughter. But he ruined all of that when he said "We’re in this together, baby."
Ummm you're actually not in this together, Bill.
The only person Serena is in this together with is her husband. She doesn't need you to make the questions ridiculous just so she can breeze through them to see her child. She's a professional and is giving her time to the press, so respect her time wisely, dude. Don't call her baby and don't act like you're teammates in this thing called life.
8 Valid Point
Considering Bill was pretty much forced to apologize publicly, I'm sure he already attempted to apologize to Serena himself. I don't think a person in the media would apologize to thousands of no-names and not personally apologize to the person he offended. That wouldn't be very bright of him.
@GarrenPeterson here makes many valid points, however. Yes, if Bill hasn't apologized to Serena yet, he very well should. Secondly, if we're all uncomfortable listening to him call her baby and asking her such a ridiculous question about Maria, imagine how she felt!
Now, Serena is a professional. She's been doing this gig for a long time. She's seen it all and has been asked it all. She knows how to conduct herself. Even the fact that she replied to him with "I honestly don’t have any thoughts about that. I can’t say I have been intimidated by anyone. That’s all. That’s it," was too nice. She could have went off on him if she really wanted to.
I'm sure men like Bill and fans who don't understand professional sports don't get it, but when you're a person in the spotlight and someone degrades you by calling you a pet-name... it's not okay. It's no professional.
7 You're Hired, Ally
Maybe Bill doesn't see the issue with calling people "Baby" because of his line of work. Perhaps if he was in an office setting, answering phones all day, or in a board-meeting with a bunch of big-wigs, he'd learn that calling someone a pet name in the office is unprofessional AF. The only people that are allowed to call you baby are your parents and significant other. That's it. If one of my bosses called me baby, I'd be creeped out.
I even get creeped out when colleagues call me "dude." I know I'm a pretty relaxed person, but there are still barriers that shouldn't really be crossed. Let's just stick to calling one another by our names shall we? Then again, referring to Serena Williams as 'one of the greatest athletes of all time' is also appreciated — because she is. (And it's nowhere near being called 'baby.')
I don't know who this Ally girl is or what her career path is, but it probably took her 60 seconds to come up with this tweet and her question knocked Bill's out of the park. Especially since Bill said it took him 14 years to come up with the question...
Sorry Bill. I don't think you should be kicked to the curb or anything like that, but I do think you should take a few refresher courses to be reminded of how to act in public.
6 Do Better, Bill
For some people, asking, thinking, and preparing questions comes easily. As a journalist, you have to think of content and then find a way to produce that content. If you already work for a publication of company that produces the content for you — great! But with that, comes great responsibility.
Knowing it took Bill 14 years to think of his question for Serena is... confusing, to say the least. Not EVERYONE has the chance to interview athletes, so when you know one day you're gonna interview one of the greatest athletes of all time, you should come up with something a little better than an opponents looks.
Britta makes an excellent point; it does say A LOT about Bill that the only thing he thought to talk about was about Maria's looks. Excuse me, but aren't we here to talk about athleticism and the French Open? Why in the world are we even discussing how someone's looks might be a factor? It's one thing if you're talking about Tinder or maybe even a blind date! But a tennis match? Bill, you're probably better than this. I hope you learn a valuable lesson here about how to approach approachable stars in sports.
5 I Wonder If He Did Apologize To Serena
I like where Caleb is going with this. I wonder if Bill is really sorry. There are a lot of people out there who get caught with their tail in between their legs, so they apologize but only because they got caught; it's not because they're really sorry.
When looking at Bill's apology on Twitter, I do get the sense that he only did it because of the backlash he received. I think when you're apologizing for something that became so widespread, it should be a little more heartfelt than what his tweet dictated.
I know tweets only have a certain amount of characters, but that's why you write a longer, more heartfelt letter and attach the link to your tweet, Bill.
Come on now, you're a journalist, you should know how this works.
He probably thinks his line of questioning did have to do with the game, since he brought up the intimidation factor, but what it really was was sexist. It was a question that wouldn't have been asked had she been a man. And that in itself deserves an even longer apology. Also, I know Serena is working on her health right now, but I'm wondering what she thinks of all this.
4 OMFG, She's Right
I'm sorry, but as soon as I read that he used the word "awkward" for describing his question, I kind of blacked out. Out of all the words in the world, awkward isn't really the word I wouldn't used. Don't get me wrong, it was awkward, but it was also inapt, demoralizing, uncomfortable, unprofessional, improper... I could go on and on.
However, @AimeeRamz makes a great point — he does apologize by explaining HIS own accomplishments... WTF? Why is he doing this? Is he listing all of his good sides so people don't beat on him too much? Does he think the fact that he's worked with the public on a few public outbursts that that makes his questions and comments justifiable?
Bill, just apologize from your heart. There is NO way you're gonna win people over after something like this, especially after those remarks to the iconic Serena Williams. Writing all the great things you've done in life is not a way to apologize to thousands of people — especially to Serena. It's kind of unbelievable actually that it took this long for me to realize that that's what Bill thought was the right thing to do. Doesn't he understand public relations?
3 What's There To Be Intimidated By?
I love professional sports. I'm definitely not a diehard fan where I know every person on the team, when the sports team was created, and what jersey numbers are retired – but I enjoy the competition. I love the camaraderie, the competitiveness, the theatrics — I love it all.
With that being said, just because I admire players like Serena and Maria does not mean I'm living and breathing for them — I don't know all of the titles they've won or the records they've broke.
So when I read @MrUniteUs's tweet, I was taken aback. I know you can be intimidated by anyone—regardless of their stats—but why would Serena be easily intimidated by Maria if she has literally beat her more times than she's lost to her? I mean, winning 19 out of 23 games is impressive AF. She's clearly the better player, no matter how amazing Maria is at tennis. And while every professional athlete has that one team or player that they just don't do well against, I think it's safe to say that that's Serena for Maria — not vice versa.
While Serena had to pull out of her game against Maria this week in the French Open due to an injury, I HIGHLY doubt it's because of Maria's good looks...
2 All Is Not Forgiven
I have no idea whether or not his profile picture has always been of him and Serena, but it's not helping his case.
It's coming off as a "Look at us! We really are friends, so you can stop trolling me online now, thanks!" When in reality, I highly doubt Serena even cares what happens to Bill and his career. She's just trying to do the best that she can do in all areas of her life. His presence obviously does not effect her, thanks to her cavalier response.
You know how some companies get in hot water for something that's done, and then like, two weeks later, we can see the company helping out an organization or charity that's related to what they got in trouble for? That's kind of like this.
Imagine McDonald's got in trouble with the Girl Scouts (just go with it). McDonald's employees told the girls that they couldn't sell their delicious cookies in front of McDonald's because it's a conflict of interest. But then, the world finds out that McDonald's is "bullying" kids, and McDonald's has no choice BUT to give back to the organization. They essentially have to save face to save themselves.
1 Black Excellence Is Right
James Fortune makes a heck of a statement here. Why in the heck is Bill Simmons empowering and complimenting Maria Sharapova for her looks when he was there to talk about tennis and Serena's mindset? Why is he referring to Maria as a model? Why does he think Serena should be intimidated by that while playing a game? Why did he have to drop the hint that he was hanging out with the President of the United States?
What was Bill really trying to get out of his question here?
Maybe he didn't plan on calling Serena "baby," but he did nonetheless. In fact, him calling her baby so honestly and quickly is kind of concerning. It makes me wonder who else he's called baby or terms of affection.
Now, I'm sure more will be said on this topic. The French Open is still going down and we're still waiting to hear back from Serena's doctor on how she's feeling, so this will definitely be hot in the press for another week or so.
It's obvious that Bill already apologized, but what I wanna see is Serena's take on the matter. Honestly, she's so relaxed and professional, she probably thought nothing of it. She probably saw him as pathetic, answered his question, and moved along. And that's because she is a strong BAMF, who is only living her best life. MMMKAY.