"I’m only a second class champion" - When Venus Williams pushed for equal pay at Wimbledon with a powerful personal essay

When Venus Williams pushed for equal pay at Wimbledon with a powerful personal essay
When Venus Williams pushed for equal pay at Wimbledon with a powerful personal essay

The US Open was the first Grand Slam to give equal prize money to men's and women's winners, but it wasn't until 2007 that Wimbledon finally agreed to pay men and women the same amount.

The grass-court Major remained the last Major to implement the change and needed a lot of convincing, the final push of which came from the legendary Venus Williams.

2007 Wimbledon champion Venus Williams took home the same prize money as men's singles winner Roger Federer that year, the first in tournament history. The American's powerful "I’m only a second class champion" essay in Times magazine played a big part in getting her there.

In her essay, Williams criticized the All England Club for sending out the "wrong message" that the accomplishments of women were less important than those of their male counterparts by awarding them with a smaller paycheck.

"I believe that athletes, especially female athletes in the world's leading sport for women should serve as role models," Williams wrote. "The message I like to convey to women and girls across the globe is that there is no glass ceiling."
"My fear is that Wimbledon is loudly and clearly sending the opposite message," she continued. "The All England Club is saying that the accomplishments of the 128 women are worth less than those of the 128 men. It diminishes the stature and credibility of such a great event in the eyes of all women."

Williams also addressed the five-set argument, which suggested that men spending more hours on court was a major reason for them being paid more.

Williams stated that women athletes would be happy to play five sets and that the women's and men's games held the same value "in the eyes of the public."

"This argument just doesn't make sense; first of all, women players would be happy to play five sets matches in grand slam tournaments," Williams wrote. "Tim Phillips, the chairman of the All England Club, knows this and even acknowledged that women players are physically capable of this."
"Tennis is unique in the world of professional sports," she continued. "No other sport has 60 men and women competing for a grand slam championship on the same stage, at the same time. So in the eyes of the general public the men's and women's games have the same value."

"Serena and I imagined we were playing on the Centre Court at Wimbledon" - Venus Williams in her 2006 essay

Serena and Venus Williams
Serena and Venus Williams

In the essay, Venus Williams also wrote about her always wanting to play on the biggest of stages, saying that she and sister Serena Williams would pretend to be playing in Wimbledon finals as children.

"When I was a little girl, and Serena and I played matches together, we often pretended that we were in the final of a famous tournament," Williams wrote. "More often than not we imagined we were playing on the Centre Court at Wimbledon."
"Those two young sisters from Compton, California, were “Wimbledon champions” many times, years before our dreams of playing there became reality."

Venus and Serena Williams would go on to win Wimbledon five and seven times, respectively.

Venus Williams and Father Richard recall one match that 7-time Grand Slam champion "should have won"

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Edited by Keshav Gopalan
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