Yesha Callahan

Serena Williams Responds To Maria Sharapova Endorsement Gap


There’s no denying the fact that Serena Williams is the greatest athlete ever, but she’s also one of the less endorsed in her sport. Well, least compared to Maria Sharapova. The disparity between Sharapova and Williams’ off-court earnings has been well documented. Tall and blond is obviously more ‘likable’.  Sharapova is the highest paid female athlete and not because of victories.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Williams spoke about the difference between her and Sharapova and those who choose to endorse Sharapova:

If they want to market someone who is white and blond, that’s their choice. I have a lot of partners who are very happy to work with me. I can’t sit here and say I should be higher on the list because I have won more. I’m happy for her, because she worked hard, too. There is enough at the table for everyone. We have to be thankful, and we also have to be positive about it so the next black person can be No. 1 on that list.

Never mind the fact that ‘next’ should be Williams, or should we say ‘current’. But Williams handled the response with dignity as usual.

“Maybe it was not meant to be me,” she added.

“Maybe it’s meant to be the next person to be amazing, and I’m just opening the door. Zina Garrison, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and Venus [Williams] opened so many doors for me.”

As Williams competes in the U.S. Open over the upcoming days, hopefully she’ll show these endorsers what a real winner looks like. Again.

Image Credits: NFL/Getty Images

  1. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    Maybe this is me becoming bitter in my “old” age, but I’m getting so sick of black graciousness. Serena SHOULD be the highest paid because Serena is the HIGHEST IN HER FIELD. You can’t tell me any company who wants their brand to be “we all lose just like this loser over here who’s peddling our merchandise to people who like losing”. No. They all want winners because winners inspire other folks to be just like them. EXCEPT when that winner is black. Then the rules get bent beyond recognition just to exclude black winners.

    • August 28, 2015 - Reply


      I can understand it both ways, but I identify with what you’re saying. This is why more black people need to get into the businesses that keep denying us shine based on our appearance/race. So many athletes are making billions of dollars for companies, for other people. I wish the athletes would start making their own brands and being the faces of them. If the athlete is liked and the product is quality, they will find customers – after all, the customers buying the products based on athlete endorsements are already there. Establish a quality brand and adopt smart, aggressive marketing and they can do it. We need to be in control of our images and in control of distribution of said images. If THEY don’t want to hire us, fine. Let’s do for ourselves and see how quickly they try to jump on board, copy it, and/or take it over.

      • August 28, 2015 - Reply


        YES! I’m all for athletes/entertainers/celebrities using their OWN brand power to create their OWN billions. At this point, designers should be lining up to make “Serena Tenniswear” and Serena should have her own sneakers that would definitely get to Jordan level by the time she retires. Me & my brother talk all the time about not letting other folks pay us millions to make them billions. I’m ready for a Venus and Serena empire, Misty Copeland empire, Ava Duverney empire, etc. Shonda Rhimes seems to already be on her path. I can’t wait for a real Shonda network that’s not just a bunch of her shows on ABC. When you have a following, you don’t need anybody’s corporate lip service.

    • August 28, 2015 - Reply


      “Then the rules get bent beyond recognition just to exclude black winners.”

      Yes–remember on The Apprentice where Trump wanted that extraordinary Black male contestant to share his win with the sub par White woman contestant. And of course, after he said no because he deserved to win on his own (which he did), the show never had co-winners before so why was he being asked, etc. Of course he was blasted in white media, for being ‘uppity’, basically. When we go above and beyond they are still disgruntled.

      Totally agree with you about Serena, and I didn’t even realize I felt this way. First i thought well ok, she is being political and I get that. And if she asserted herself as she deserves to, then she would be called the ABW. I wonder if any non-biased sports writer has ever written anything stating basically what you have.

      • August 28, 2015 - Reply


        The closest I saw was one in the last month or so talking about how if this was about male tennis players, no one would be giving Sharapova the “femininity” treatment & Serena’s power and size would be the rage of all tennis talk. Other than that, I think everyone treats bw (and bm) like we’re just supposed to be accommodating negresses, always sympathetic and understanding of why the ww who didn’t have to try as hard or even succeed at all should get some type of pat on the back and a participation award. Had the shoe been on the other foot, sports writers wouldn’t be able to stop talking about why it’s unfair for Serena to get so much endorsements as a loser. They’d be comparing her to other sports legends who never got their just dues (rings, endorsements, etc) even though they dominated their fields. The closest bw I saw get to the Sharapova treatment was Lolo Jones who was coasting on light/bright/damn near white privilege all the way up to the Olympics.

        • August 28, 2015 - Reply


          Lolo Jones. I’m glad that you talked about that issue since Lolo Jones disrespected her teammates and said slick anti-black comments for a while. I like Dawn Harper and Kellie Wells. Kellie Wells is from VA too. Lolo Jones disrespected Rachel Jeantel on Twitter. I didn’t forget that. More and more black people are not following the accommodating game.

        • August 29, 2015 - Reply


          Yes but a lot of people don’t know that Lolo is half black. My white co–worker thought Lolo was a white woman — That’s why she got all of those endorsements.

          • August 29, 2015 - Reply


            Yep. That’s why she’s the closest one I could think of. Her fair skin is what got her as far as she did even though she doesn’t have the track record to deserve all the endorsements she got. And when a few people called her out on it, other folks wanted to give her accolades for “being smart” about her brand so that her record wouldn’t matter. But the question is how does she have “a brand” without a record? Same with Sharapova.

  2. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    She’s like a princess, like a really fit princess with a great back hand

  3. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    My philosophy is that if you work hard and do the right thing, then you should be rewarded because your accomplishments. Serena Williams’ statement certainly represents her humbleness. Yet, we have to keep it real. Based on work ethnic, talent, accomplishments, etc. it is a total disgrace that Maria Sharapova has more endorsements and off court earnings than Serena Williams. During the 1990’s, during the 2000’s, and during the 2010’s, Serena Williams has shown that she is the best. She is the best. There are a lot of jealous people in the world who fear the strength, the beauty, and the resilient spirit of a black woman. So, the haters will hate. So, there is no question that Serena Williams should be shown a great deal of respect and she earned her way. She won Olympic medals, tournaments, and she greatly loves tennis.

    She has won 13 Grand Slam doubles titles with her sister Venus and the pair are unbeaten in Grand Slam tournament finals. Everyone know that when black people are given a fair playing real, we excel greatly consistently. As the other great Sisters, who have commented here, have mentioned, there is nothing wrong with black people to set up their own enterprises and infrastructure. In that sense, we not only help ourselves, but we help other black people (especially the black poor who suffer not only racism, but class oppression). So, we live in an imperfect society. While we are here in this Earth, we have the right to stand up, to speak up, to oppose double standards (as this article has greatly exposed), and to establish creative solutions that can be of benefit for the masses of the people.

    • August 28, 2015 - Reply

      Couldn’t have said it better.

      • August 28, 2015 - Reply

        @Cocoa Rose

        Thank you Cocoa Rose.

    • August 29, 2015 - Reply

      well said, this is a clear case of racism & sexism. If this were a black male basketball player or f’ball player, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, because we see time & time again that they get their endorsement paydays, sad that Serena isn’t. Very disturbing. .

      • August 29, 2015 - Reply


        You’re absolutely right. Serena has more than paid her dues. She is a living legend and she deserves much more.

        Goodnight Sister and Bless You.

        • August 29, 2015 - Reply

          yes, i co-sign, good night & bless you too bud; ttys 😉

  4. August 28, 2015 - Reply

    Serena stop. It’s racism boo, pure and simple.

  5. August 30, 2015 - Reply

    I think it is important to look at the larger picture. Believe it or not, Serena has a higher net worth than Sharapova despite Sharapova having more endorsements through her combination of winnings, endorsements, and businesses she has spearheaded. Through a number of postings, I and others had stated that we should not seek out validation from the White population at large — and I think Serena is doing just that. Within 10-15 years, both of them are going to have to retire and there will be a new face for endorsements. In such a scenario, it would seem that the person who has sustainable businesses built during his/her peak would come out on top. Isn’t that what is important?

  6. August 31, 2015 - Reply

    What I don’t like is that even in sports people have to be now sexy.You can’t be just good at what you do you have to be sexy to be popular and to get more endorsement deals.I think it is particular unfair for women because our looks are always emphasized even when your job has nothing to do with it.The problem is also that Serena is not considered feminine in the mainstream media e.g. slender,tall,not a lot of muscles,narrow shoulders as Naomi Campbell,Kelly Rowland OR curvy with not a lot of muscles as Beyonce,Nicki Minaj,Kim Kardashian.Also in black communities is her body not seen as feminine as the one from Beyonce or Nicki Minaj.It is not fair but this is the reality.Sure color does also play a huge role but if she would look more like the other black celebrities it wouldn’t be that extreme with getting less endorsement deals as Maria Sharapova.

  7. September 13, 2015 - Reply

    B.S. I would buy anything Harris Faulkner endorsed, and I don’t know if she even owns a racquet.

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