"Many times they get sponsors because they are black" - When Martina Hingis made a racially insensitive comment about Venus and Serena Williams

Serena Williams and Martina Hingis (L).
Serena Williams and Martina Hingis (L).

At the turn of the 21st century Serena Williams and Venus Williams dominated the tennis circuit, quickly attaining superstar status both on and off the court. But while they captured attention all over the world and were in a purple patch as tennis players, they were also subjected to racially insensitive behavior and comments from time to time.

One such comment came from their fellow tennis great Martina Hingis.

Venus and Serena Williams were the faces of a Time Magazine cover story back in the 2001 season. It included a comment from Hingis, who suggested that "being black" gave the Williams sisters many advantages and that sponsors favored them mainly because they were people of color.

Hingis made these comments at the 2001 Miami Masters, formerly known as the Ericsson Open.

"Being black only helps," Hingis said, according to The Buffalo News. "Many times they get sponsors because they are black. And they have had a lot of advantages because they can always say, 'It's racism.' They can always come back and say, 'Because we are this color, things happen'."

These comments created a massive uproar in the tennis community and beyond. Hingis later clarified her stance on the issue, apologizing to those whose sentiments were hurt by her comments. While she claimed that she did not intend to make a statement "against everybody," she felt she was right in the moment.

"I'm sorry if I hurt anybody's feelings with that," Hingis said during the 2001 US Open. "I think I was right at that time, but it doesn't mean it's against everybody. I just maybe said something which is not politically correct, but I don't know. I don't know all the laws, all the rules on what's going on in this country. If you expect that from me, it's too much."

"I get endorsements because I win and I work hard" - Serena Williams

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A few months after the controversy first erupted, Serena Williams responded to the comments made by Martina Hingis and others in her usual confident manner. Serena declared that she reaped the rewards of her hard work, commitment, and positive attitude towards people and situations.

She also suggested that she earned many endorsements because she was a winner and not for reasons others claimed.

"All I know is I get endorsements because I win and I work hard," Williams stated, as per The Buffalo News. "I go out there and have a good attitude and I smile...As for being black and getting more endorsements because I'm black, I wouldn't know anything about that."

On the tennis court Williams and Hingis shared a competitive rivalry, finishing 7-6 in favor of the American. Williams won her maiden Grand Slam singles title by beating Hingis in the final of the 1999 US Open.

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