“I don’t need to be reminded that we’re tough on these girls.Because we are!” says Richard Williams, father of tennis players Venus and Serena Williams, to a social worker.
During a key scene in the movie king richarda neighbor of the family calls the police to denounce the man because he has seen the girls, aged 9 and 11 at the time, training long hours in the rain and in the dark.
“That’s our job, to keep them off these streets! Do you want to arrest us for that?Richard Williams tells police.
That “toughness” with which Williams raised all her children (and with which, according to her, she managed to take Venus and Serena to the top of world tennis) has caused some to criticize the film despite its 6 nominations for ORscarincluding best film of the year and best actor for Will Smith.
The Hollywood Academy Awards are held on March 27 in Los Angeles.
“Richard (…) was openly criticized for being an arrogant and loud-mouthed self-promoter, for being impossible to work with and too reckless with his criticism of the world of tennis,” film critic Derek Smith wrote in his review for the specialized magazine slant.
“But when it comes to confronting those prejudices, the film king richard he makes a greedy and capricious overcorrection. In fact, in his resistance to the image of Richard Williams as simply a greedy narcissist, he ends up smoothing over almost all the rough edges of the man,” he concludes.
But who really is Richard Williams according to the people who know him and according to himself?
An amazing “prediction”
“Tennis fans have this image of Richard Williams as a crazy, controlling man, always in the stands with Venus and Serena,” Will Smith told BBC presenter Graham Norton.
“But as I’ve spent time with the family and started to discover the story, it’s amazing! He predicted that Venus and Serena would be number 1 and number 2 in the world, two years before they were born“.
Richard was born in 1942, in the town of Shrevenport, in the state of Louisiana (USA).
As he recounted in his autobiography “Black and White: As I See It”, he was one of the five children of a cotton picker who had no problem physically punishing him, cultivating his potential and teaching him to solve his problems on his own.
And for him, his children had no reason to grow up any other way.
“My children have grown up working,” Richard told the magazine. Sports Illustrated in 1999. “All the boys at home were working from the age of 2: Venus and Serena handed out telephone directories.”
“I taught my children to be very, very independent. My wife used to get upset about it, but I didn’t care if anyone got upset. One day those guys are going to be on their own,” she added.
During his career as a trainer for Venus and Serena, Richard was known for being a strong man and, above all, stubborn.
Such was the control he had over the lives of his daughters that, according to Will Smith, he had prepared a 78-page plan detailing how he was going to make them the best tennis players in the world even before the girls were born.
“I asked Orecene (Venus and Serena’s mother), what would have happened if they had a boy?” Smith explained. “She said that she had asked Richard that and her answer was, ‘There’s not going to be any children.'”
Adapting to the pressure
“We were cut from the same scissors,” Rick Macci, the coach of Venus and Serena during the early years of the players’ careers and, according to him, Richard Williams’s best friend for years, explains to BBC Mundo.
“He understood sports and he understood athletics, and the point was to turn them into professionals. But do you know what was above everything? that Richard was an amazing father,” says Macci.
According to the coach, for Williams the most important thing was to protect his daughters and, for that, he had to make them strong to face a world of great pressure, especially that which came from the media.
“You have to remember that I am telling the whole world that these girls are going to be number 1 in the world, that they are better than [la ex número 1 del mundo Jennifer] Capriati, and then add the racial factor and the crazy dad, and all the pressure they put on them.”
“But they were bulletproof. Richard trained them to love pressure and that’s easy to say, but it’s hard to raise your kids to be bulletproof and they’ve proven that throughout their careers.”
And while the pressure was on, Macci says Williams was very accommodating to his daughters.
“If they didn’t want to play and wanted to go to the beach, they went to the beach. If they wanted to go to the mall, they went to the mall. I had a mission with tennis and I knew that we could transcend in the sport, but I respected Richard even if he was out of control or said crazy things, ”explains Macci.
the ghost of racism
In the US, some commentators have pointed out that criticism of how king richard features Richard Williams and the way he raises his daughters stems from some white people’s discomfort with the realities of black communities.
Rosalyn Morris, writing in her blog on the portal Medium, assured: “USA. He has a real problem with black men and women, period, but there’s something about the combination that really creeps them out.”
“On King Richard, you have an intact black family, with a black man loving and guiding his wife and five daughters and America has a problem with that, “he summarized.
Something similar commented Isha Price, sister of Venus and Serena, and one of the producers of the film.
“What was shown on screen that was so compelling was the fact that an African-American man is seen as someone who is fighting for the foundational foundations of his family. This is often met with resistance,” Price said in a column in the specialized magazine The Hollywood Reporter.
The “resistance” to which Price refers made little dent in the reputation of the film, which today has a positive review of 90% on the portal RottenTomatoes and could give Will Smith his first Oscar for best actor.
Today Richard Williams, 79, lives with his son Chavoita Lesane and, despite his health problems, those who know him say he maintains his mental toughness.
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