Can I just start by saying I did not come up with the “Sharap It’s Over” pun. I remember seeing it somewhere on Twitter. I just don’t remember where it was now, but I found it absolutely hilarious.
So yes, Maria Sharapova is a drugs cheat. Who would have guessed? The darling of tennis. She may have been beat more times by Serena Williams than a teenage boy beats his meat, but she indeed was still the face of tennis. That’s why when you take into account her endorsements, she makes a tonne more money than Serena does. But yes, this was a shock to everybody. On March 7th, Sharapova tweeted the following:
As you can expect, the rumour mill went into overdrive. There were three main rumours circulating:
- Maria was retiring;
- She was injured; and
- She was pregnant
That was it. Every news channel or sports programme you watched, that was it. At no point did anyone say, “Hey, maybe she failed a drug test?” ‘cause it’s Maria Sharapova right? She would never cheat…right? Right? WRONG! She would…and she did.
So here’s my question to you: How does one of the most famous athletes on the planet and highest paid sportswoman on earth fail a drugs test and the news doesn’t leak? In this day and age where media get their hands on even classified government documents before presidents do, how did they not get wind of this? How was she afforded the chance to send a buzz-generating tweet to build hype around her announcement and still NOTHING but some speculation from the media? I’ll tell you how…white privilege, that’s how.
Do you genuinely think if Serena Williams failed a drugs test she would be allowed this much space and sympathy? Do you think she would be allowed this much courtesy by the same media that’s always body shaming her? I mean, the UK’s Daily Mail once wrote of Serena “…she’s physically powerful and has a ferocious temper…but cannot compete with Maria Sharapova’s blonde Siberian beauty”. David Frum, senior editor of the Atlantic and former adviser to George W, once sent out a tweet implying Serena uses steroids. Hadley Freeman once remarked that “Serena has long been compared to animals, from gorillas to generic beasts, with one sportscaster suggesting in 2001 that she looked more suited to National Geographic than Playboy”. Remember Shamil Tarpischev, the then Russian tennis boss? She referred to the Williams Sisters and “Williams Brothers” adding that they are frightening to look at?
There are loads of examples where some of the news articles about Serena are almost tinged with revulsion. Imagine that. And this isn’t just anyone we’re talking about here. This is probably the greatest female tennis player of all time. And yet, here is Maria Sharapova with her failed drugs test and we are flooded with news headlines like USA Today’s “Maria Sharapova handles positive drug test with grace”, or Miami Herald’s “Credit to Maria for her honesty”. I’m hearing words in the media like “upstanding”, “upfront”, “integrity”. Really? Hell, even Serena herself praised Maria for her “courage”.
But that’s white privilege for you. So ubiquitous yet so subtle. If you blink, you just might miss it…like Maria missed that email. 😉
**** Just scribbling my thoughts ****