The American Tennis Association has chosen Richard Williams as the first inductee into its new Tennis and Education Complex currently being built in Florida.
I have always admired Richard Williams. He reared his daughters Venus and Serena into two of the greatest tennis players in the history of the game. As a Dad, what more can you do to ensure the success of your progeny? A tip of the cap and the raising of a frothy mug are in order. An O.G. for certain. Salute.
Early on, when the Williams sisters were minors, Richard Williams was their spokesperson, manager, trainer and primary motivator in addition to being their father.
At the start of their careers, the upper class country club community made it perfectly clear that the Williams family was not welcomed. As Venus and Serena progressed and eventually became professionals, that animus increased.
Williams, who grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana, did not have any qualms about speaking the truth when it came to his daughters, tennis and racism. I can still recall how various commentators, professionals and officials would try to paint him as paranoid and even crazy.
But with time comes clarity, and as his daughters grew in physical stature and skill, Williams’ initial concerns about the safety of his daughters due to racism would reverberate with each idiotic statement from a commentator, each time a lesser opponent would win more endorsements or when the n-word would slip casually from the lips of a heckler.
Richard Williams talking about Venus Williams first Match in 1994, the West Bank Classic.
As he has gotten up there in age, Williams has withdrawn from the public eye and seldom makes statements. He is the author of Black and White: The Way I See It, published in 2014.
He is being recognized for coaching Serena and Venus to the top of the field as Grand Slam champions and Olympians, with Serena considered by some as one of the greatest athletes of all time.
ATA Education Foundation President and former President of the ATA, Dr. Franklyn Scott said of the induction:
“This year we recognize ATAs value as a historic organization, and theres no better way of doing that than to honor a man whose legacy is built upon the propitious parenting and coaching of his two daughters, both of whom have blossomed into top-tier doyens. These successful women have traveled beyond the stars thanks to their instilled determination and training while breaking plenty of barriers along the way. It is for the significance of Richard Williams in Venus and Serenas athletic prowess and intellectual know-how that we would like to honor him as our first Hall of Famer.”