Australian football players disrespect Serena and Venus Williams by dressing in blackface
Serena Williams is considered by many to be the greatest tennis player of all time. However, being an African-American woman in a mostly white sport, she's sometimes treated unfairly. Critics scrutinize her body, describing her as "masculine." The French Open banned her black catsuit, which had a medical function, preventing blood clots in her legs. (In response, she kicked ass in a tutu.)
Recently, an Australian artist mocked Serena in a controversial cartoon, sparking outrage on social media. At the French Open, Serena got in a heated argument with the empire, calling him a 'liar' and 'a thief.' The penalties cost her the game, and some say men would not have been punished so harshly. In an attempt to mock the debacle, the cartoonist portrayed Serena as an angry baby. However, he exaggerated her facial features in a crude manner similar to racist Jim Crow-era illustrations.
Now the 23-time Grand Slam winner is being grossly disrespected once again. Three Australian amateur league football players painted their bodies black for their club's annual Mad Mondays. Mitch Stanley and Matt Chamberlain meant to portray Serena and Venus Williams, while Beau Grundy meant to portray Sydney Swans player Aliir Aliir.
The three men play for the Tasmanian Penguin Football Club, and uploaded their photo to the Facebook page where Mad Mondays costumes are typically featured. However, dressing in blackface as the Williams sisters caused a bit of a stir, following the events of the past few weeks.
Now, there might be a culture clash here. In the United States, blackface has an ugly history, tethered to the shameful treatment of a group of people who faced brutal discrimination. Unless blackface is done as part of satirical art - like, say, Robert Downey, Jr.'s character in Tropic Thunder - it can come across as a pretty jerk move. I'm not sure what connotation blackface has in Australian culture, but Twitter users were not happy about it.
A spokesperson for AFL Tasmania said "individual clubs" are in charge of Mad Monday celebrations, rowdy events "often involving heavy drinking and extreme costumes." However, they note that they do not condone blackface.
In a statement released to The Huffington Post, The Penguin Football Club stated they were not aware the players "intended to dress in this manner," and they consider the behavior "unacceptable in this day and age." The players have been reprimanded, and the club insisted their "actions were never intended to be racist in any way." The players have apologized, and claim "all they meant to do was dress as one of their sporting idols"
The AFL states it plans "to ensure that this completely unacceptable behavior never happens again." Like, maybe, every time they see someone dress in blackface, the Williams sisters get to hit them with tennis rackets? One can only hope.