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|March 30, 2001||
Venus leaps to father's defence
Venus Williams rallied to the defense of outspoken father Richard on Thursday, refusing to distance herself from the racism controversy swirling around tennis's most famous family.
Richard Williams, who is no stranger to the spotlight, plunged the sport and his daughters, Venus and Serena, into yet another media firestorm on Monday, with allegations that the boos directed at his family at a tournament last weekend in Indian Wells were racially motivated.
But in the days following those revelations, much of the controversy has shifted away from the alleged racist taunts to Richard Willilams' potentially damaging influence on his daughters and their careers.
"He has a great influence on me," countered Venus Williams, following her convincing semifinal win over defending champion and world number one Martina Hingis at the Ericsson Open on Thursday. "He has given me everything that I have right now or else I would be somewhere struggling in college.
"Maybe lots of bad things could have happened to me.
"So I am very, very thankful and I have nothing bad to say against him because he loves me.
"He wants the best for me and has done everything he can for me ... he would give me his right arm."
The WTA has maintained that the Indian Wells crowd's reaction was sparked by Venus's last second withdrawal from her semifinal against Serena because of tendinitis in her knee, and not because of their skin colour.
But Richard Williams has not backed away from his charges, claiming there was no mistaking the racial abuse hurled at him and his family.
"The white people at Indian Wells, said what they've been wanting to say to us all along: 'Nigger, stay away from here, we don't want you here,"' said Williams." It's the worst act of prejudice I've seen since they killed Martin Luther King."
Until Thursday, Venus Williams had remained tight-lipped about the incident, saying only, "I heard what he heard."
But Venus, the Wimbledon and U.S. Open champion refused to duck any questions in her post-match press conference on Thursday, acknowledging that she believes racism exists within United States and the sport.
"People are afraid to face the reality," said Williams. "No one wants to see bad things, no one wants to see the dark side.
"They want to be happy and I don't blame them for that.
"But we've got to face our fears and meet any problem head on that we might have in America."
While Richard Williams has found support from Venus and Serena, he has received little backing from other players on the women's circuit, which believes it is he who has created, "a circus" around his daughters.
Some players are becoming increasing alarmed by number of controversial situations Richard Williams has placed his daughters.
Earlier this year Williams and his daughters were forced to defend themselves against allegations that the father pre-determined the winner of matches involving the siblings.
Prior to that, the season began with Williams demanding a bigger share of tennis profits, believing his daughters to be the sport's main attraction.
"They just seem to be turning this into a circus act," said Lindsay Davenport, who will be replaced as world number two by Venus on Monday. "Richard seems to be the one causing all this commotion, and I don't know if he does it on purpose or not.
"It just seems that he likes to say things to get a rise out of people and the press.
"I think he talks and they have to deal with the consequences with is a little unfortunate."
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