Ilie Nastase is a two-time grand slam champion and former world number one who has recently landed himself in hot water. During a Fed Cup match between his home country, Romania, and the United Kingdom, Nastase was heard screaming at British player Johanna Konta and UK coach Anna Keothavong. After labelling the two women “f—king b—ches” and drawing Konta to tears, Nastase was removed from the arena. The play was suspended after his removal, allowing the distressed Brit to recover from the tirade of verbal abuse served up by Nastase.
As well as dehumanising the UK tennis team, Nastase took it upon himself to torment British journalist Eleanor Crooks, who recorded the Romanian coach making a racist remark about Serena Williams’ unborn child. Natase called Crooks a “stupid b—ch,” saying his comments were taken out of context and were meant to be humorous.
Witnessing her peers being attacked by the seventy-year-old Romanian, as well as being on the receiving end of his vicious comments, twenty-three-time grand slam champion, current world number one and mother-to-be Serena Williams returned to the public eye, labelling Nastase as “sexist” and “racist.”
In a lengthy Instagram post, Williams acknowledges that the “world has come so far but yet we have so much further to go….Yes, we have broken down so many barriers—however, there are a plethora more to go.” While there has been significant progress in ending racism, it concerns Williams, as well as many other people around the world, that “we live in a society where people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments.” It is also worrying that Nastase still thinks it is acceptable to belittle women for simply doing their job. Unsure why Nastase would think his comments are acceptable, Williams quotes American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou to ask the Romanian, “Does my sassiness upset you? Why are you beset with gloom?”
To reinforce that Nastase’s attitude to ethnic minorities and women will not be tolerated, Williams made another Instagram post addressing her unborn child. In the open letter, Williams says: “My Dearest Baby, You gave me the strength I didn’t know I had. You taught me the true meaning of serenity and peace. I can’t wait to meet you. I can’t wait for you to join the players box next year. But most importantly, I am so happy to share being number one in the world with you…. once again today. On @alexisohanian bday. 😉 from the world’s oldest number one to the world’s youngest number one. -Your Mommy.”
If there is anything to learn from this nasty debacle, it’s that we still have a long way to go to achieve equality. While the attitudes Nastase has displayed over the past week are no longer the norm, they are still prevalent today. This is not the first time Serena Williams has been on the receiving end of racism and sexism, nor will it be the last. However, if she and the rest of the world continue to stand up and fight against these sorts of awful people—whether through protests, legislation, the courts or a sassy Instagram post—the hope for a harmonious world still exists.