While Serena Williams politely brushed off the French Open’s decision to ban her signature Black Panther-inspired ‘catsuit’ on the court, tennis legend Billie Jean King did not.
On Saturday evening, Billie Jean King shared her views on the matter through a tweet. In response to the decision of the French tennis officials, she wrote, “The policing of women’s bodies must end. The “respect” that’s needed is for the exceptional talent @serenawilliams brings to the game.” King went on to say, “Criticizing what she wears to work is where the true disrespect lies.”
The policing of women’s bodies must end. The “respect” that’s needed is for the exceptional talent @serenawilliams brings to the game. Criticizing what she wears to work is where the true disrespect lies. https://t.co/ioyP9VTCxM
— Billie Jean King (@BillieJeanKing) August 25, 2018
Her comment came shortly after Bernard Giudicelli, president of the French Tennis Federation, spoke about banning said catsuit in an interview with Tennis magazine. “It will no longer be accepted,” Giudicelli said. “I think sometimes we’ve gone too far. One must respect the game and place.”
The outfit in question was a custom Nike bodysuit that Serena Williams wore to the French Open in May. Unlike “traditional” tennis uniforms which are typically made up of a tank top and a mini skirt, Williams’ bodysuit was tight and full-length.
Catsuit anyone? For all the moms out there who had a tough recovery from pregnancy—here you go. If I can do it, so can you. Love you all!! pic.twitter.com/xXb3BKDGNF
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) May 29, 2018
“It’s kind of my way of being a superhero,” Williams told reporters in May. “I feel like a warrior in it, a warrior princess… from Wakanda, maybe.”
Not only does the outfit make her feel great, it serves a very functional role that’s important to the tennis player’s health. Williams has always been open about her health issues and since having her daughter, Alexis Olympia, in 2017, she’s discussed her complications with blood clots.
The tight bodysuit was a way to promote circulation and help prevent clots from forming. Williams explained, “I have been wearing pants in general a lot when I play, so I can keep the blood circulation going. It’s a fun suit but it’s also functional.
While dealing with body-shamers is nothing new for Serena Williams, it’s about time that sports officials — and everyone else, for that matter — take advice from Billie Jean King and end the policing of women’s bodies stat.