As little girls, Venus and Serena Williams would get picked on by kids in their Compton, California, neighborhood. Their father, Richard, would observe this but was careful not to step in and coddle them.
Even when Richard Williams was “nearly brought to tears” by the treatment he and Venus received in the crowd during the 2001 Indian Wells women’s singles final, and 19-year-old Serena, who lived only 130 miles away, was booed mercilessly on the court, he preached mental fortitude. Serena Williams defeated 17-year-old Kim Clijsters, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2, and did not return to the California event for 14 years.
But in a 1995 Day One interview with ABC News, Richard Williams, the sisters’ tennis coach, showed there was a line not to be crossed with his girls. A 14-year-old Venus was answering questions and explained that she was confident going into the match.
Richard Williams, center, with his daughters Venus, left, and Serena in 1991.
The interviewer reiterated how confident she was and asked where that confidence was coming from, what made Venus so sure she would beat her opponent.
Williams let the interviewer know why his line of questioning was problematic for a young black child.
“What she said,” Williams said, stopping the interview, “she said it with so much confidence the first time, but you keep going on and on. You’ve got to understand what you’re dealing with: A image of a 14-year-old child, and this child gonna be out there playing when your old a– and me gonna be in the grave.
“When she say something, we done told you what’s happening. You’re dealing with a little black kid, and let her be a kid. She done answered it with a lot of confidence. Leave that alone.”