Richard Williams & Oracene Price Should Be Enshrined With 2022 ITHOF Class As”Contributors”

Associated Press

In 1994 Venus Williams elected to go pro in Tennis, where she would make a name for herself by beating Shaun Stafford. Stafford was the 50th seed at the Bank of the West Classic in California. The following year, Serena Williams decided to follow in her older sister’s footsteps.

The Williams’ sisters have gone on to become multiple-time Grand Slam Winners. Still, none of that would have happened without the countless sacrifices that their parents, Richard Williams and Oracene Price, made throughout their careers. With those sacrifices and contributions in mind, many believe that they both deserve to be in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, including Ahmed Sule (a CFA Charterholder, financial analyst, writer, photojournalist, and social critic) and Glenn Gilliam (an Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships at “ALTHEA” National Screening Tour & Educational Outreach and D&I Program).

“Their inclusion into the Hall of Fame is critical for several reasons. First, no one has made such a significant contribution to the game of Tennis in the last 20-30 years. They coached their daughters Venus and Serena Williams to become multiple Grand Slam and Olympic champions and dominate the game of Tennis for over two decades. Second, they provided a template that has enabled parents to emulate, thereby producing more winners of color. For instance, Coco Gauff and Naomi Osaka’s parents successfully replicated the Richard/Oracene template. Third, they have contributed to bringing a generation of young players of color into Tennis through their success,” said Sule via email.

“Before the Williams Sisters, Tennis was seen as a lily-white sport where black success was almost unheard of; but now we have so many players of color such as Naomi Osaka, Coco Gauff, Whitney Osigwe, Madison Keys, etc. Who were all inspired by what Richard/Oracene produced. Four, they indirectly facilitated a new demographic of fans of color to engage with the sport, which has made it more financially lucrative. Five, their exclusion from the Hall of Fame currently signals to the black community that excellence is not rewarded in the white spaces. Their inclusion will therefore open the floodgate of hidden black pioneers getting the recognition that they long deserved.”

Gilliam added that it’s important for anyone who has deserved credit to be honored in an appropriate fashion. “What is really critical is that they are honored at a relatively contemporary time because anything else is really unjust,” Gilliam said (via phone). “The mirror fact, they created a seat change in the tennis world by raising up and coaching both Venus and Serena Williams completely flip the tennis world on its head, and more importantly, have earned the honors that we are pursuing at this point in the sense of the nominations that have been put in. It is so critical that people like Richard and Oracene are duly honored and inducted in how previous nominees have been treated. It has been unfortunate that we seem to find rules being changed to delay or deny these nominations.

“Still, they are also important to get them for other people who have deserved honorary honors and awards. So that, thankfully, Richard and Oracene financially will be pretty okay. However, for most folks, these honorees also equate to financial opportunities. It is also a financial cost when they don’t receive these honors and we have seen a lot of that throughout black history unfortunately in this country. We know what it can be costly, thankfully they are not facing that financial disadvantage, but it still does not diminish the fact they should be receiving it and while they are alive. We know, Richard, unfortunately, has dealt with health issues in recent years mostly, but there’s no reason that they should not get this award. They should have had it already, but right now is the time to make sure this wrong is righted.”

Gilliam is referencing that both Richard Williams and Oracene Price were submitted in 2017 and 2019 respectfully for the International Tennis Hall of Fame as contributors by Ahmed Sule. Unfortunately, there were changes to guidelines in 2018 and 2019.

“I would say it has been a case of shifting goalposts, delays, and dashed hopes. In February 2017, we submitted the ITHOF nomination applications for Richard Williams and Oracene Price as “contributors.” Before that application, “contributors” were put up annually for nomination. After the submission, the ITHOF changed the “Contributors Category” guidelines allow only two nominations every four years,” Sule shared.

“When we submitted their nomination again in late 2019, the rules were changed again, thereby denying Richard and Oracene their place in the sun. At the beginning of the nomination process in 2017, we expected that Richard and Oracene would be nominated within a year. Now, after all the procedural changes, the earliest possible year of induction is 2025. Based on the racial composition of the current list of inductees, 2025 does not look feasible. Another thing to note is that in changing the induction rules, wheelchair players have been negatively impacted as they now have to wait every four years before induction relative to their able-bodied counterparts.”

Ahmed Sule recently created a petition to induct Richard Williams and Oracene Price as “Contributors” into the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Due to both Richard and Oracene meeting the former criteria of either being five years removed from committed work in Tennis or 65 years old.

“I think the important part is the eligibility requirements are pretty straightforward and should be non-negotiable. They had been in place for better than five decades, more than six decades. Still, the bottom line is all you have to look at is the International Tennis Hall of Fame’s history of discrimination sadly and the fact to date, in their 67-year history, there have only been three black inductees. That speaks volumes to the fact that they are not trying as hard as they could and not making an effort to honor people who deserve it in real-time.

“So, it is not surprising unfortunately that these delays or procedural changes has been made. I think the upside is we are not in a position to watch those things happen and not say something about it. I think unfortunately too often mainstream media and the folks that are within the actual Hall membership themselves would watch these things take place. Unfortunately, it is a white establishment that does operate from entitlement and with a couple who have been so strong and impactful as coaches and contributors. We know that if this was a different situation and to be honest a different racial make up their induct would have been assured at the first opportunity.”

Former USTA [United States Tennis Association] President And CEO, Katrina Adams was recently a guest on CBS Radio with JR Sport Brief promoting her book “Own The Arena,” where she pays homage to the people who helped her along the way. Also, during her appearance, she was asked about both Richard and Oracene being inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame and acknowledged that she was aware of the petition. She is looking for them to go in at the earliest in 2025.

“I think there has been a petition if you will for them to be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame as contributors of the sport. Ultimately, I think that will happen, that is a category that is only offered every four years, unfortunately that category was this year,” said Adams.

“We saw the ‘Original Nine,’ and coach Dennis Van Der Meer go in as contributors. I would venture to say maybe in four years they will be inducted into the Internation Tennis Hall of Fame because they are Icons. They are an anomaly and they have done what no other human has been able to do. In what they have to develop their daughters to be the champs that they are.”

Meanwhile, Gilliam and Sule argue that both Richard Williams and Oracene Price should not wait until 2025 but should be on the ballot for the 2022 inductions.

“The overall goal is to get Richard Williams and Oracene Price inducted in 2022. We are also calling for an independent investigation into the never-ending induction rule changes, which appears to negatively impact Richard and Oracene’s nomination,” Sule said.

“Additionally, there is a petition calling on the ITHOF to induct Richard and Oracene. Other steps include getting the media to raise awareness about the gross injustice meted on Richard and Oracene. We will also be contacting the ITHOF’s sponsors to inform them about what has been going on with our nomination in the last four years. Finally, we are working on engaging with influencers to communicate with the ITHOF regarding the exclusion.”

Gilliam reiterated what Sule said about contacting the sponsors of the International Tennis Hall of Fame and making them aware of what is going on in their name.

“I think the important thing is the petition is so that the larger audience can be aware of the transgression that has been taking place. Giving them a chance to participate in levying or putting out their voice, and their concerns,” said Gilliam. “The most important thing is that we bring this to the attention of the power that be within the Hall, and that goes from the CEO to the President, the enshrinement committee, who is probably responsible for the making the procedural changes making us aware of it. However, most importantly, we are going to speak to the sponsors, the people who underwriting the funding for the Hall, and let them know what is being done in their name. So, they are clear that there is an opportunity to get this straighten out and to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Next month, the film King Richard, the Richard Williams biopic, starring Will Smith, will be hitting theaters everywhere. The press surrounding the movie leading up to the release many hope to bring awareness to the petition and exclusion of Williams and Oracene Price from the International Hall of Fame.

“The movie will project Richard and Oracene’s accomplishments from the hidden pages to the front pages of a global audience. People will learn for the first time about Richard’s 78-page plan which he wrote even before his daughters were born and how he and his wife executed the plan to the tee,” Sule said. “After the release, people within and outside the tennis community will begin to inquire about Richard and Oracene and then come across the petition and reports about their exclusion from the Hall of Fame. This will then put pressure on the ITHOF to review its decision.”

Glenn Gilliam hopes that Will Smith and the rest of the cast of the film King Richard will learn about the petition and voice their opinions regarding Richard Williams and Oracene Price being denied into the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

“I think that timing may be one of the biggest factors in making sure that these grievances are aired and aired in a timely faction. Both of those nominations were submitted in 2017 and 2019 respectively, and with each submission, the rules were changed almost immediately, and consequently, both nominations were blocked. For Richard Willams to now have a movie a Bio-Pic done about the success that he and his wife at the time Oracene Price have had in creating an almost dreamlike story of these two sisters, who come from untraditional backgrounds in terms of the tennis world and to rise up in an almost unchallenged way. Not taking traditional roots through junior Tennis and what have you,” Gilliam said.

“That movie is going to be very important in giving people the broadest exposure to that story and that journey. Will Smith being the start is important as well because he attracts more views and more media. So, I think there is a long list of the 262 inductees in the Tennis Hall of Fame. I’m not sure how many had movies made about them, but I am almost positive none of the contributors have that something that speaks volumes is to why this movie is very important and could be the actual linchpin to move these inductions forward. We are spectating that Will Smith and the rest of the cast will be aware of the petition as well as the circumstance with Richard and Oracene not getting in thus far and might have something to say about it.”

JR also asked Katrina Adams about the King Richard movie.

“I think it will show who Richard Williams was in his quest for dynasty. Listen, he helped champion the number one and two players in the world as unthinkable siblings and understand how someone can do that. From someone that does not have a tennis background and never coached Tennis, and his brilliant desire along with his wife Oracene Price, they built a kingdom for these girls and provided the opportunities for them to be who we see today. I am really excited to see it because I met them when they were nine and eleven. I know most of the story, but I know there will be stories that I did not know about them. So, I know it should be welcome by all.”

Ahmed Sule and Glenn Gilliam believe that the induction of Richard Williams and Oracene Price into the International Tennis Hall of Fame can open the door for our contributors, such as the Wheelchair players.

Gilliam would also finish our chat by pointing out that there are only three black contributors in the International Tennis Hall of Fame, with the last one receiving induction in 2009. Only after a 38-year campaign following Dr. Robert Johnson’s death.

“I want to make this point, as I said earlier, to have only three black inductees throughout your history. When we know the tennis institution, the USLTA before the USTA had policies excluding blacks from even participating until an invitation was made to Althea Gibson, and she broke the color barrier in 1950. That in itself did not write all the wrongs and the fact that the only black contributor as a coach as in Dr. Robert Johnson, who coached both Althea and Arthur Ashe, died in 1971 at the age of 72. So, he was well past the age of 65 and retired well before that. So, his eligibility was unquestioned as far back as 1965. The truth of the matter is, his family had to fight tooth and nail for 38 years past his death,” Gilliam said.

“In 2009, he finally got inducted after a 38-year campaign, and it was absolutely disrespectful that his family had to endure that, all the while missing and losing out on financial opportunities. They just reestablished the home courts developed his junior development program in Lynchburg, Virginia. That funding and all of those things would have been exhilarated if he had been inducted when he should have been in real-time. So, all that time was lost, and his family at a great cost to them that they had to deal with fighting and being dismissed. The Hall really has to say, wait for a second, we have done this before, and we can’t afford to see this happen again. It should not depend on Serena and Venus Williams stating the obvious. You could not make it happen this year, but we expect them to be inducted in 2022.” has reached out to the International Tennis Hall of Fame for further comments. 

What do you think?

Written by Landon Buford

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