Less than 24 hours after French Open officials announced that Serena Williams would no longer be able to wear her black catsuit when she returns to Roland Garros in 2019, Nike responded with a retort.
“You can take the superhero out of her costume,” the sportswear giant wrote on Twitter. “But you can never take away her superpowers.”
— Nike (@Nike) August 25, 2018
Williams has an apparel endorsement deal with Nike, and it was Nike who outfitted her in the bodysuit.
Why did the French Open ban the catsuit?
The catsuit ban was part of a stricter dress code introduced in advance of next year’s French Open – which is still nine months away. It’s unclear what, exactly, the compelling reason for introducing it is.
“I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far,” was French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli’s explanation – or attempt at an explanation.
Giudicelli, though, singled out Williams’ attire, perhaps suggesting that her suit was the impetus for the change. “It will no longer be accepted,” Giudicelli said. “One must respect the game and the place.”
It’s unclear why Williams’ suit would be seen as disrespecting “the game and the place.”
Williams had multiple good reasons for wearing the suit
In fact, if anything, the ban seems disrespectful to Williams, who donned the form-fitting bodysuit primarily for medical reasons.
The French Open was Serena’s first major tournament after giving birth to her daughter last summer. In the days after the birth, Williams needed blood thinners to treat clots in her lungs.
In May, after breaking out the catsuit for the first time, she told reporters:
“I had a lot of problems with my blood clots and, God, I don’t know how many I have had in the past 12 months. So it is definitely a little functionality to [the suit]. I have been wearing pants in general a lot when I play so I can keep the blood circulation going.”
But there was also a fashion element to Williams’ attire.
“It feels like this suit represents all the women that have been through a lot mentally, physically, with their body to come back and have confidence and to believe in themselves,” Williams said during the 2018 French Open. “I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess kind of, queen from Wakanda. I’m always living in a fantasy world. I always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero. I feel like a superhero when I wear it.”
But as Nike wrote, the suit isn’t the only thing that makes Williams a superhero – far from it.
Williams responds to French Open’s ban
It turns out all the hubbub, however, is irrelevant. First of all, Williams wouldn’t go back to the same outfit twice
“When it comes to fashion, you don’t want to be a repeat offender,” she said Saturday.
Plus, Williams doesn’t need the full-body suit for health reasons anymore.
She also said she spoke with Giudicelli on Friday after the announcement.
“I think that obviously the Grand Slams have a right to do what they want to do,” Williams said. “I feel like if and when, or if they know that some things are for health reasons, then there’s no way that they wouldn’t be OK with it. So I think it’s fine.”