Free from the shackles of political correctness, the head of the Russian Tennis Federation sparked outrage by calling tennis champs Venus and Serena Williams “brothers.”
Shamil Tarpischev made the off-the-cuff reference to the sisters’ physical size during an appearance earlier this month on a Russian TV show, according to the New York Daily News.
The host of the program, Ivan Urgant, had asked a retired Russian tennis player what it was like to “play against one of the …,” and before he could name the Williamses, Tarpischev chimed in by saying, “the Williams brothers.”
“It’s frightening when you look at them,” Tarpischev said, according to ESPN. “But really you just need to play against the ball.”
Urgant used the opportunity to add fuel to the fire.
“I have tremendous respect for them, but once one of the sisters passed next to me, and I found myself in her shadow for about 40 seconds,” Urgant added, according to the Daily News.
In a statement released by the Russian Tennis Federation, Tarpischev brushed off the remarks as a joke, saying he had no “malicious intent.”
The Women’s Tennis Association wasn’t laughing and fined Tarpischev $25,000 and banned him for one year from the women’s tour, the Daily News reported.
“The statements made by Shamil Tarpischev on Russian television with respect to two of the greatest athletes in the history of women’s tennis are insulting, demeaning and have absolutely no place in our sport,” association Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster said in a statement, according to ESPN.
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