If you know nothing about sports, you know that Serena Williams is an exceptional athlete. You know that she’s the top female tennis player in the world and has been for years. You know that she is a powerhouse. You know that she is gorgeous and aggressive. And you know that she is a champion.
A few things that you might not know: Serena Williams has won four Olympic gold medals. She has won the Grand Slam 21 times. She has won 36 major titles in her 20-year career. This year alone she has won 53 out of 56 matches and built up the largest ranking points gap between her and her next competitor in history. And she has done all of that while facing racist umpires, entire stadiums that have booed and insulted her, and opponents who pad their bras and underwear to mock her physique. As I said, she is a champion.
And yet, people find it hard to believe that she is more of a champion than a horse or that she deserves the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year more than one. Fucking typical.
So in 2015, the thoroughbred American Pharoah won the Triple Crown, a feat that hasn’t been replicated in 37 years. The racing world was thrilled, shocked, and elated. And so American Pharoah got nominated for the Sports Illustrated award – and won 47% of the online vote. And yet, Sports Illustrated didn’t give him the award – probably because he’s a fucking horse.
No animal has ever won the award, which is supposed to honor an athlete’s sportsmanship and athletic achievement. Animals, though capable of physical and sometimes emotional achievement, are nonetheless not sentient. They cannot choose to keep going when injured or insulted. They cannot choose to go into training. They cannot stop their trainers or owners from drugging them. They do what they are trained to do, and through breeding and training, they become champions – but that does not make them more admirable than a human being.
Serena is an athlete beyond compare. She has made a career out of being the best, out of trying the hardest, and out of consistently fighting against biased odds. She is not an animal whose greatest accomplishment is having good breeding. She is a human being with superhuman perseverance, and she doesn’t deserve to be compared to a horse.