By Ken Reed
Venus Williams is a household name in the vast majority of American households (and many households around the globe, for that matter). The reason? Her epic tennis career: Seven Grand Slam titles, #1 world ranking, and Olympic gold medal winner, for starters. But in terms of positive impact on the world, she’s done her best work in the equal rights field.
Williams led the fight for equal pay for women at Wimbledon, the French Open and the Australian Open (Billie Jean King is credited with getting equal pay for women at the U.S. Open, after threatening a boycott). She was also the engine behind getting the WTA to partner with UNESCO in their impactful gender equality campaign. In addition, Williams has an integral role in Brawny’s “Strength Has No Gender” campaign, which recognizes women who have fought for equal rights in a variety of male-dominated fields.
“We should all speak up when you have the opportunity to be part of something bigger than yourself and when it’s something that’s not right,” says Williams.
Larry Scott, current commissioner of the Pac-12 conference and former chairman and CEO of the WTA, is a big fan of the oldest of tennis’ Williams sisters (along with superstar sibling Serena).
“My sense is, over time, she will have a place in the history books in terms of equality for women and the role that athletes can play to effect social and political change in the world,” says Scott.
Williams says she will continue encouraging people — of both genders — not to accept societal limits on what’s possible.
“I personally believe in no limits at all,” says a passionate Williams.
“If there’s one thing I believe in at all, it’s don’t accept limits.”
In summarizing her message, Williams says, “You can be anything you want to be, as a male or female. That’s what this message is.”
What a terrific message to share with people, young and old. Here’s hoping Venus keeps up the good fight, long after her playing career ends.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.