At least one key sponsor for Serena Williams has expressed support for the tennis legend after officials of the French Open banned a black, skintight bodysuit that she wore during that tournament in late May.
In a tweet, Nike Inc. NKE, -0.55% offered this message to the winner of 23 grand slam tennis titles (three French Open championships), the most of any player in tennis’s Open era: “You can take the superhero of her costume, but you can never take away her superpowers #justdoit”
— Nike (@Nike) August 25, 2018
On Friday, French Tennis Federation president, Bernard Giudicelli, said the French grand slam is introducing a dress code because “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far,” he said referring to players on-court attire. “You have to respect the game and the place,” he said, according to news reports.
The 36-year-old Williams made her return to Grand Slam tennis at the French Open after the birth of her daughter, Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., in September.
Williams dedicated the outfit, which many have referred to as a catsuit, to all mothers and said that it made her feel like a superhero: “I feel like a warrior in it, a warrior princess…from Wakanda, maybe,” she said, referring to the popular superhero movie Black Panther. “I’ve always wanted to be a superhero, and it’s kind of my way of being a superhero,” she said.
The fashion restrictions might seem odd in a country and city known for its high-fashion sensibility. Paris is often perceived as the fashion capital of the world.
Among professional tournament’s, restrictions on attire had mostly been associated with the stringent dress code adhered to by the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club’s Wimbledon tournament, which has mandated since 1963 that tennis players wear white.
Nike, a longtime sponsor of Williams, has been supportive of the professional athlete’s sartorial choices. In fact, the apparel retailer is debuting her Nike-backed “Queen” collection, which is a collaboration between Williams and 37-year-old fashion designer Virgil Abloh.
Shares of Nike ended Friday’s session off 0.6% but have nearly returned 32% so far this year, that far outpaces the 4.3% gain for the Dow Jones Industrial Average DJIA, +0.52% where it is a component, and the S&P 500 index’s SPX, +0.62% 7.5% year-to-date return.
The apparel controversy comes as the final major tournament of the year, the U.S. Open, is about to get under way.
At a Saturday morning interview ahead of the official start of the U.S. Open, Williams attempted to defuse the drama around the catsuit ban. “Everything’s fine, guys,” she said, according to an ESPN report. He’s been so easy to talk to. My whole team is basically French, so, yeah, we have a wonderful relationship. I’m sure we would come to an understanding and everything will be okay. Yeah, so it wouldn’t be a big deal,” she said, referring to conversations with Giudicelli.
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