Tennis seems unable to shed its reputation as a Whites-only sport—and a new allegation of racism does not help.
Tony Nimmons, who was once the United States Tennis Association’s (USTA) only Black chair umpire, filed a discrimination lawsuit against the association on Friday. He alleged that the USTA is racially biased in job promotions and retaliated against him for a previous complaint.
“It’s sad that in the 21st century, we are still talking about blatant mistreatment and retaliation against African-Americans,” he told the New York Post.
Decades after African-American players Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe knocked down racial barriers in tennis, racism remains a part of the sport’s culture.
Venus and Serena Williams encountered racism in their rise to the top of the sport—and their battles continue. Just last year, tennis commentator Doug Adler compared Venus Williams’ movement on the court to a gorilla.
Serena Williams recalled the unfair criticism the sisters faced in the early years of professional tennis. The former world number one player was told to stay in her place. “I definitely was scrutinized because I was confident. I was Black and I was confident. And I am Black. I am confident. But I would say that I feel like I could be number one, ” she told People. “Why shouldn’t I say that? If I don’t think I’m gonna be the best, why do I play? … I believed that I was gonna be number one.”
In February, African-American player Donald Young asserted that a White player used a racial slur toward him during a heated match. His opponent, Ryan Harrison, denied the charge. Officials said they found no evidence to support Young’s claim.
Nimmons had previously filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint against the USTA in 2015 for racial discrimination, including being demoted. EEOC found “credible evidence that [Nimmons] was discriminated against on the basis of his race.”
USTA has “a strict policy prohibiting discrimination and retaliations,” a spokesman told the newspaper.
Nimmons’ lawsuit seeks unspecified cash damages for lost income, emotional distress and mental anguish.