ARLINGTON, Va. — The father of tennis stars Venus and Serena Williams told USA Today his family was subjected to racial slurs at the Indian Wells tennis tournament, after Venus withdrew from a semifinal match with her sister.
In an interview conducted at the Ericsson Open, Richard Williams said his family was booed and taunted by a racist crowd.
"When Venus and I were walking down the stairs to our seats, people kept calling me n-----," Williams is quoted in Monday's editions.
"One guy said, 'I wish it was '75; we'd skin you alive.' That's when I stopped and walked toward that way. Then I realized that (my) best bet was to handle the situation nonviolently. I had trouble holding back tears. I think Indian Wells disgraced America."
Charles Pasarell, director of the Indian Wells tournament, told the paper he was "cringing when all that stuff was going on. It was unfair for the crowd to do that." Of racial taunting, he said, "If Richard says someone yelled something, maybe they did, but I know that's not Indian Wells people."
After Venus pulled out of the semifinal with Serena at the last minute on March 15 because of tendinitis in her right knee, controversy erupted over whether Richard Williams orchestrated the withdrawal to steer a victory to Serena.
Richard Williams blamed the press for fueling the hostile crowd response.
"The media is trying to nullify what Venus and Serena have done, cast a shadow on the family," Williams told USA Today. "No, I have never asked Venus or Serena to lose a match. When Serena lost at Wimbledon, she cried like hell, not because someone asked her to lose but because Serena hates to lose. Venus isn't like that. When Venus loses, she walks off the court and is ready to get something to eat."
He also said his daughters are subjected to jealousy in the locker room.
"Every girl in the locker room feels she should be in the place we're in," he said. "Jealousy devours you."