Black women in sports have got to be one of those role models we need to look up to as a community at large for they endure so much online abuse at times. Besides being cultural icons, they all share that they’re exercising the power of choice. Over the past year, amid pandemic chaos and global unrest, Black women in sports chose to put themselves first and prioritize their mental and physical health.
Recently, Serena Williams announced in the September 2022 Issue of Vogue US that she is taking a step back from tennis to explore other ventures. This announcement comes shortly after the year anniversary of Naomi Osaka’s historic step down from the 2021 French Open for mental health reasons, which was a few months before Simone Biles took a break from the Tokyo Olympics. Black women stand as the pillars of the Black community, but a pillar can’t stand on its own without being rooted in a firm foundation. When so much of Black women’s labour has been commodified to the point of expectation, it’s radical to see Black women saying “No.”
For Serena, Naomi, and Simone to reject the mentally and physically ravaging cycle of professional sports to take a step back for themselves, it’s a step forward for the necessary rest, recovery, and self-care that Black women deserve.
In her latest interview discussing her departure from tennis, Serena Williams declares that the farewell is a step towards something greater. “I have never liked the word retirement. I’ve been thinking of this as a transition. Maybe the best word to describe what I’m up to is evolution,” she told Vogue. For the cover star, this isn’t the end of an era but the beginning of reprioritizing what matters in her life. Now at 40, deciding to turn her focus toward building a family and developing her capital venture firm, Serena Ventures, Williams’ expansion seems a natural continuation of her greater legacy. From humble beginnings in Compton, California coming up as a sister tennis duo with Venus Williams, Serena has given her world over to tennis, mastering the court with art, technique, and class. But now, hailed as the GOAT, with 23 Grand Slams under her belt and countless accolades, Williams has nothing left to prove for anyone but herself.
She’s a Bonafede legend that has proven time and time again she is the author of her story and legacy. The change in Williams’ life comes at a pivotal point in time after spending decades being a trailblazer for Black women athletes everywhere trying to take ownership of their narratives.
Black women in sports have always led the change in the system despite facing immeasurable criticisms from the media, forced to be both strong and engage in respectability politics while being dehumanized. For Black women athletes, especially for darker-skinned Black women, the playing field has never been even equal. Over the course of her career, Williams has spent decades fighting against dehumanizing stereotypes about her body, subject to being either hypersexualized or hyper-masculinized in the media.