A sports reporter has issued an apology after receiving backlash for asking Serena Williams if, as President Trump is said to have suggested in 2004, she was “intimidated by [the] supermodel good looks” of opponent Maria Sharapova.
Bill Simons, the publisher and editor for the sports publication Inside Tennis, quoted Trump over the weekend when he interviewed Williams, who was due to face Sharapova at the French Open Monday morning. Trump reportedly told Simons that Sharapova’s appearance — including her “incredibly alluring” shoulders — put Williams off her game and resulted in her loss at the 2004 Wimbledon final. It is one of two instances in which Williams has lost to the Russian player.
Simons was also criticized for calling Williams, who is returning to tennis after giving birth to her daughter in September 2017, “baby.”
“We’re in this together, baby,” he said during the French Open press conference, asking for time for more questions.
“No, we’re not,” Williams fired back. “You’re not going home to a screaming baby.”
She also dismissed his — and Trump’s — suggestion that she was intimidated by Sharapova.
“I honestly don’t have any thoughts about that,” she responded. “I can’t say I have been intimidated by anyone. That’s all. That’s it.”
Simons has been accused of being sexist and inappropriate in his questioning, prompting him to defend himself on Twitter and apologize for appearing to “empower Trump or attack Serena.”
I apologize if my awkward ques seemed 2 empower Trump or attack Serena/I SO admire her/I've spent lifetime fighting racism/sexism/homophobia.Started campaign 2 name US Open Stad 4 Ashe/Lobbied long 2 get Serena 2 return to I. Wells/Called out police violence vs Blake/I'm so sorry
— INSIDE TENNIS (@BillSimons1) June 4, 2018
Though Simons — whose profile picture shows him posing with Williams — insisted that he had a track record of supporting social justice, many weren’t buying his statement.
All of these things can be true and you can still have an enormous blind spot about the intersection of race and gender and how your question was disappointing AT BEST. And all of the things you’ve done make your question worse. U should know better.
— Ryan Bathe (@michellechel) June 4, 2018
Why ask the person with an overwelming record of victory over someone else if she is the one who is intimidated? Please take the pic of Serena Williams off of your profile.
— Lulit (@LulitMT) June 4, 2018
I don't know what you were thinking. Don't call people "baby" unless it is their name. You thoroughly disrespected Williams. I just don't get that foolishness.
— Cooper Hawke (@cooperhawke) June 4, 2018
That kind of questioning was disappointing at best. Bigoted more likely and you don’t owe the internet an apology you owe Serena an apology that you should have given her right after that absurd question.
— Tre (@WakandanBarber) June 4, 2018
Seriously those questions were just inappropriate. Never address or refer to an athlete as “baby” – that in itself is cringe worthy.
— G (@RunDumplingRun) June 4, 2018
Meanwhile, Williams has had to pull out of her match with Sharapova due to an arm injury.
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