MOSCOW, October 19 (RIA Novosti) – Serena Williams supports the one-year suspension of the head of the Russian Tennis Federation Shamil Tarpischev, who had earlier referred to Serena and her sister Venus as the “Williams brothers” and called them “scary” to look at; the American tennis star has said the comment was bullying, sexist and racist, AP reports.
The WTA imposed a one-year suspension on Tarpischev and also fined the official $25,000 for making the comments on Russian television, AP said.
“I think the WTA did a great job of taking the initiative and taking immediate action to his comments”, Serena Williams said on Sunday, as quoted by AP.
“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”.
Tarpischev made the statements when he appeared on Russian TV last week.
“I didn’t want to offend any athlete with my words”, Tarpischev told AP. “I regret that this joke has garnered so much attention”, added the Russian official.
The president and chairman of the U.S. Tennis Association has called for a formal apology from Tarpischev, stressing that as a member of the International Olympic Committee, he was expected to conduct himself with “the highest degree of integrity and sportsmanship”, the International Business Times reported.
This is not the first time Tarpischev, whose role as Russia’s top tennis coach dates back to when he was the USSR’s Davis Cup team captain in the 1970’s, has earned American ire. In 1998, he was denied a US visa due to the fact that a number of Russian publications had alleged that he had ties to the mafia, according to the Moscow Times. After some bargaining, however, he managed to obtain a visa that limited him to travelling only within the state of Georgia, where his team was scheduled to play.