A gracious Serena Williams took to social media today, to express her thanks for Sports Illustrated‘s recognition of her dominant performance this year.
“No other active U.S. athlete rules a sport the way Serena Williams rules hers, and few reflect our era better,” wrote Sports Illustrated.
Williams’s season was compromised by one disappointing near miss — a loss at the US Open – which denied her tennis’s top achievement, a calendar year Grand Slam, or winning all four major tennis titles in a single year.
S.L. Price of Sports Illustrated said of Williams in the article:
“I do want to be known as the greatest ever,” [Williams] says. To many she already is. But that’s not the sole reason why we arrive, now, at this honor. It’s also because Williams kept pushing herself to grow, to be better, and tennis was the least of it. The trying is what’s impressive.”
The coveted Sports Illustrated award is partly supposed to be about the spirit of sportsmanship. While it seems that some people would rather see a horse win than Williams, it was her sportswomanship that was the determining factor that went into the magazine’s choice. Specifically, how she confronted one painful incident from her past.
Back in 2001, Williams and her sister Venus were booed at the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, California. They were accused of match fixing. The sisters said they were taunted with racist remarks.
After boycotting Indian Wells for 14 years, Williams returned this year, just after the Ferguson protests; she wanted to voice her opinion about racism. With her efforts, more than $100,000 was raised for the Equal Justice Initiative, which addresses racial disparities.
Williams outdid her contemporaries because of the combination of her athletic dominance, cultural relevancy, and personal growth, which distinguished her – and made her the ideal choice, according to the magazine’s managing editor, Christian Stone.
Not only does Williams stand out for how she handled adversity, her pick stands out because its historical: she is the first woman to win as a solo athlete since 1984, as well as the first woman that the magazine has ever honored on her own.
The women who won before her is tennis player Billie Jean King, gymnast Mary Lou Retton, and skater Bonnie Blair — sharing the award with a male athlete, and again in 1999, the magazine picked the entire U.S. women’s soccer team.
So naturally, it stands that some people are a little ticked with the magazine’s choice this time around.
With great success comes great backlash, and every achievement that Williams has earned, was accompanied by opposition. Haters argue that she didn’t really deserve it. But, haters gonna hate.
Williams’s entire, amazing career has been disrupted by racism and sexism, and partly served if nothing else, to earn her the Sports Illustrated title of U.S. Sportsperson of the year. Its times like these that you can appreciate the beauty of adversity.