When asked how sexism and racism affected her career, Serena Williams didn't mince words.

Over the course of her two-decade-long career, Serena Williams has won nearly 40 major titles, a record amount of prize money, and has tied with Steffi Graf for the most Grand Slam singles championships of any man or woman, 22. But there's one title that Williams feels has unfairly eluded her.

Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images.

"If I were a man, I would have 100 percent been considered the greatest ever a long time ago," the tennis star told rapper Common in an interview for ESPN's "The Undefeated."


Unsurprisingly, for anyone who has ever watched her play, she has a pretty damn good case.

There are, of course, the aforementioned titles. In addition to equaling Graf's singles title record, Williams also equaled her women's record for consecutive weeks at number one earlier this year. But Williams' main claim to greatest-of-all-time status is how long she dominated the sport and how unquestionably she dominated it during that time.

Aside from — maybe, sort of, not really — her sister Venus, no player of her era could make a plausible claim to rivaling her. Sampras had Agassi. Federer had Nadal and Djokovic. Williams had ... nobody. A few of her competitors defeated her, but none came close to equaling her skill when she was in her prime.

Williams had to do it all not just as a woman, but as a black woman.

Photo by Alberto Pizzoli/Getty Images.

"It's very challenging because sometimes when things are blatantly wrong and blatantly unfair and blatantly racist or sexist, I just have to go and put on a brave smile and not let anyone know how I feel on the inside so they don't get that satisfaction even though on the inside I would be dying," Williams said in the interview.

Far from shrinking in the face of those challenges, Williams has used her platform to speak out against injustice and encourage women of color to honor their ambition. In the last year, she's written candidly about her fear of police violence and about using what others perceive as her disadvantages — her race and gender in particular — to fuel her drive.

Women shouldn't have to play down their accomplishments, especially not those who are legitimately, obviously, otherworldly great at what they do.

A 2013 University of Massachusetts study found that women who work alongside successful men tend to play down their accomplishments. An earlier Cornell study found that while the female and male subjects scored evenly on a science test, the women in the study were far less confident in their ability to perform well ahead of the exam.

Williams, to the contrary, has long cast herself as part of the pantheon of historical greats and declared her gender irrelevant. Should she brag so openly? Why not? Male athletes brag constantly — and fans love them for it.

If there's anyone who shouldn't have to keep her high opinion of herself to herself, it's the woman who so thoroughly embodied her era of tennis that she basically changed the way the game is played.

Is Williams the G.O.A.T.?

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

Like her peers in other sports — Michael Jordan, Babe Ruth, Joe Montana, Tiger Woods — there will always be debate about how undeniable Williams' dominance truly was.

But she's more than earned the right to say it.

Most Shared
Courtesy of Houseplant.

In America, one dumb mistake can hang over your head forever.

Nearly 30% of the American adult population — about 70 million people — have at least one criminal conviction that can prevent them from being treated equally when it comes to everything from job and housing opportunities to child custody.

Twenty million of these Americans have felony convictions that can destroy their chances of making a comfortable living and prevents them from voting out the lawmakers who imprisoned them.

Many of these convictions are drug-related and stem from the War on Drugs that began in the U.S. '80s. This war has unfairly targeted the minority community, especially African-Americans.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture

Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature
via James Anderson

Two years ago, a tweet featuring the invoice for a fixed boiler went viral because the customer, a 91-year-old woman with leukemia, received the services for free.

"No charge for this lady under any circumstances," the invoice read. "We will be available 24 hours to help her and keep her as comfortable as possible."

The repair was done by James Anderson, 52, a father-of-five from Burnley, England. "James is an absolute star, it was overwhelming to see that it cost nothing," the woman's daughter told CNN.

Keep Reading Show less
Heroes

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular