How a car ride prompted Serena Williams to join the fight against police violence.

‘I won’t be silent.’


Serena Williams is one of the greatest athletes of all time. Full stop.

She’s won 22 grand slam tennis titles, 307 victories in grand-slam play, and four Olympic gold medals. She is a dominant player, beloved by millions of fans, charities, and brands.

Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.

But on Sept. 27, 2016, Williams took on a challenge she can’t win alone: police violence.

In a viral Facebook post, Williams explained that she asked her nephew to drive her one day so she could work on her phone between meetings.

Two people embrace during a demonstration for Philando Castile outside the governor’s mansion in St. Paul, Minnesota. Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images.

But what should’ve been a simple task left Williams feeling anxious and tense, something many black Americans can’t help feeling at the moment.

Here’s her Facebook post:

Read the full text below, emphasis mine.

Today I asked my 18 year old nephew (to be clear he’s black) to drive me to my meetings so I can work on my phone…

Posted by Serena Williams on Tuesday, September 27, 2016

“Today I asked my 18 year old nephew (to be clear he’s black) to drive me to my meetings so I can work on my phone #safteyfirst. In the distance I saw cop on the side of the road. I quickly checked to see if he was obliging by the speed limit. Than I remembered that horrible video of the woman in the car when a cop shot her boyfriend. All of this went through my mind in a matter of seconds. I even regretted not driving myself. I would never forgive myself if something happened to my nephew. He’s so innocent. So were all ‘the others’
I am a total believer that not ‘everyone’ is bad It is just the ones that are ignorant, afraid, uneducated, and insensitive that is affecting millions and millions of lives. Why did I have to think about this in 2016? Have we not gone through enough, opened so many doors, impacted billions of lives? But I realized we must stride on — for it’s not how far we have come but how much further still we have to go.
I than wondered than have I spoken up? I had to take a look at me. What about my nephews? What if I have a son and what about my daughters?
As Dr. Martin Luther King said ‘There comes a time when silence is betrayal’.


Williams may be one of the most recognizable faces in sports, but all the money, fame, and endorsements in the world won’t stop a badge or a bullet.

Flowers and a short note found at a memorial at the scene of the death of Keith Scott. Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images.

That’s why she decided she couldn’t be silent about this issue anymore.

Her message comes just days after the shooting deaths of Alfred Olango, Terence Crutcher and Keith Lamont Scott at the hands of police. And weeks after NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to protest injustices that black Americans face each day.

What does a celebrity like Williams have to lose by speaking out? Start with her life and work backward.

It’s unclear how Williams will mobilize against police violence. But regardless of the method, her critics will be ready to argue, or worse.

Since Aug. 27, 2016,  Kaepernick and some of the professional and amateur athletes who’ve joined him (including children as young as 11) have received death threats.

“If something like that were to happen, you’ve proved my point,” Kaepernick told The Mercury News. “It’ll be loud and clear for everyone why it happened…”

Eric Reid, Colin Kaepernick,  and Eli Harold of the San Francisco 49ers kneel on the sidelines during the national anthem. Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images.

That’s white supremacy disguised as love of country.

“It’s rude and disrespectful to protest like that,” they jeer, invoking veterans and the “American way” for their cause. Still others claim it’s just not the right time or place to speak out.

But there will never be a right time or place for this because these critics don’t want people like Williams or Kaepernick protesting at all. They don’t want a reminder that America may not look or feel the same to everyone who calls it home.

And while many people will line up to throw their support behind Serena Williams, do not begin to think this is an easy decision for her. Her fan base, endorsements, clothing line, and appearances are assuredly all in jeopardy.

This is no small move, but she’s doing it anyway. That’s courage.

Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images for USTA.

So if Serena Williams can risk it all, what will you do?

Will you speak out? Will you march? Will you write letters? Will you lift up the voices of people of color calling for justice? Will you vote? Will you shut down your racist uncle or grandmother who “just doesn’t know any better”?

People are dying. The time for hypotheticals, small moves, and silence is over.

Protesters march in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the shooting of Keith Scott by police. Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images.


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