Tennis great Billie Jean King reacted Saturday to the banning of Serena Williams from wearing her “Black Panther”-inspired catsuit on the court at future French Opens, and called for the end of “policing” women’s bodies.
“The policing of women’s bodies must end. The ‘respect’ that’s needed is for the exceptional talent @serenawilliams brings to the game. Criticizing what she wears to work is where the true disrespect lies,” King tweeted.
On Friday, French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli announced the group was introducing a new dress code for future French Opens to regulate players’ uniforms, explaining, “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far.”
“It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place,” Giudicelli said in an interview in Tennis Magazine’s 500th edition. He made particular note of Williams’ form-fitting black “catsuit” she wore at Roland Garros in May.
Williams said the skin-tight uniform made her feel like a “superhero.”
“I feel like a warrior wearing it, a queen from Wakanda maybe,” she said, referring to the fictional country featured in the blockbuster “Black Panther.”
“I’m always living in a fantasy world. I always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero, she added.
Williams has also said the suit helped her avoid blood clots, which complicated her recovery after she gave birth last year.
On Saturday, she downplayed the discussion over the suit.
“I think that obviously, the Grand Slams have a right to do what they want to do,” the Washington Post quoted her as saying. “I feel like if and when, or if they know that some things are for health reasons, then there’s no way that they wouldn’t be okay with it. So I think it’s fine. The president of the French Federation, he’s been really amazing. He’s been so easy to talk to. My whole team is basically French, so, yeah, we have a wonderful relationship.
Hollywood figures including Shonda Rhimes, “Hunger Games” star Elizabeth Banks and “Arrow” actor Stephen Amell were among those who defended Williams’ right to wear the suit.