serena williams

French Open Officials Won’t Allow Serena Williams to Wear Her Black Panther-Inspired Catsuit

Somebody please call in the Dora Milaje.

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What does the French Tennis Federation have against Serena Williams? First, they denied her seeding in the 2018 French Open after she took a 14 month hiatus from playing to recover from having a baby. Now, they are not allowing her to wear her Black Panther-inspired compression suit to compete. Because if there’s something world class athletes need, it’s a dress code.

French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli said of the catsuit, “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far,” in an interview with the Associated Press. “It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.” Cue eye roll to infinity.

The catsuit that Serena Williams wears is not just a sartorial choice; it’s also a medical necessity. Williams has struggled with blood clotting issues throughout her life, and nearly died after giving birth to her daughter. The compression suit helps with her circulation and prevents clotting. “I’ve been wearing pants a lot in general when I play so I can keep the blood circulation going,” Williams said in a press conference. “It’s a fun suit, but it’s also functional so I can play without any problems.”

And how is a catsuit any more or less inappropriate than the short skirts and tops traditionally worn in tennis? This decision feels arbitrary and blatantly discriminatory. Athletes need to wear garments that they can perform in, and the right clothes can make a massive difference, both physically and psychologically. Williams has previously expressed her love for her catsuit, saying “I feel like a warrior in it, like a warrior princess kind of queen from Wakanda maybe. I’ve always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s my way of being a superhero.”

Nike, the suit’s designer, tweeted a message of support to Williams.

The French Tennis Federation may try to take away her catsuit, but Serena Williams will remain a warrior queen.

(via Buzzfeed, image: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

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Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.