By Off the BlackAthlete Sports Wire by Marc Berman
Updated: January 17, 2005
Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus Williams
Richard Williams, father of Serena and Venus Williams

NEW YORK, NY.—Richard Williams, the outspoken father of Serena and Venus, delivered a stinging parting shot to the U.S. Open yesterday before flying back to Florida, accusing banished chair umpire Mariana Alves of being “prejudiced.”

Williams, on his cell phone from LaGuardia Airport, told The WIRE, “It’s impossible for the umpire to miss that many calls. I wish I knew what was going on. Conspiracy, racism, it definitely has to be. I really think the umpire was prejudiced.

“It hurts other young black kids wanting to play [professional] tennis,” he added. “They think, ‘If we do this, then this is what they’re going to do to us.’”

The embattled chair umpire, Mariana Alves, was bounced from the Open after Tuesday night’s quarterfinal fiasco pitting Serena Williams against Jennifer Capriati. Alves made arguably the worst call in tennis history, overruling her lineswoman in the first game of the deciding third set on a Williams shot that replays showed was well inside the line.

Then, in the match’s final game, three more line calls incorrectly went against Williams, according to replays, and Alves did not overrule.

“That’s two matches they’ve cost us,” said Papa Williams, referring to the Wimbledon scoring snafu that contributed to Venus Williams’ second-round defeat to Karolina Sprem. “My feeling is we’ve been robbed and cheated. Serena should’ve walked off the court if they didn’t change the umpire. There is something against this family.”

He first began charging racism on the tour in 1997 in Venus’ Open debut. After Romanian Irina Spirlea bumped into Venus on a changeover, Papa called her a “big, tall white turkey.”

Papa Williams did not meet with WTA officials yesterday to discuss his feelings, saying he wants other African-Americans in tennis to help him fight the bias.

“We always sit back and do nothing,” he said yesterday. “We talk about what takes place, but we’re afraid to do anything, like the white man’s going to take a stick to us. It can’t just be me. We’ve got be unified. I’ve been talking about it for 10 years. I’ve seen what they’ve done to this family for 10 years. They’re not going to listen to one voice.”

Williams was quoted in yesterday’s saying he’d like to see his daughters retire from tennis, feeling they’d make more money as entrepreneurs and “it’s a shame for them to waste those great minds on hitting a tennis ball.”

Yesterday, he added, “I want them to retire soon. That’s going to happen anyway. But I don’t want them to be chased out. Serena, she’ll be ok, but things like this need to stop.”

WTA executive director Larry Scott said yesterday, “I was very disturbed to see what happened on court and to see the instant replay and missed calls, bad calls at critical moments, especially since it overshadowed what was probably the best match of the U.S. Open so far in terms of drama and excitement. It’s a shame for Serena. It’s a shame for Jennifer that’s been the focus.”

Earlier this week, even before Tuesday’s nightmare (which ironically occurred on Althea Gibson Night), Papa Williams told The WIRE, “I think it’s a disgrace at how the system is against those two black girls.”