Serena Williams praised Nike for creating a “powerful statement” by making Colin Kaepernick the face of an advertising campaign.
The quarterback appears alongside the message: “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything”, as part of the 30th anniversary of Nike’s Just Do It campaign.
Kaepernick was the first NFL player to kneel at games during the national anthem as a protest against social and racial injustice. He inspired many other players to join in, earning the ire of Donald Trump, and the protest cost Kaepernick his NFL contract.
Williams, who is sponsored by Nike, has been a supporter of Kaepernick and he was at Flushing Meadows last Friday to see her defeat sister Venus in the US Open third round.
Following a quarter-final victory over Karolina Pliskova, Williams said: “He’s done a lot for the African-American community, and it’s cost him a lot. It’s sad. But he continues to do the best he can to support. Having a huge company back him could be a controversial reason for this company, but they’re not afraid. I feel like that was a really powerful statement to a lot of other companies.”
Williams declined to answer whether she would take part in similar protests in tennis given the chance, saying: “I think everyone has a choice to do what they choose to do.
“Whether they protest it, which is a peaceful protest, or not, it’s the choice of being American. It doesn’t make them less American.
“And I think that’s also something that’s really interesting, is the fact that we all make up this world, because we have different views on different things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be loving toward each other.”
John Isner, a supporter of Trump who has previously been very critical of Kaepernick, refused to answer a question about the matter following his defeat by Juan Martin del Potro. “I don’t see how that has any relevance here, so I really don’t appreciate that question,” he said.
Back on court, Naomi Osaka needed just 57 minutes to defeat Lesia Tsurenko at the US Open to race into her first grand slam semi-final.
In a meeting between two first-time slam quarter-finalists it was Osaka who produced much the better display, winning 6-1 6-1. The 20-year-old said: “I was freaking out inside. My entire body was shaking so I was really glad I was able to play well today.”
Osaka is the first Japanese woman to reach the last four at a slam since Kimiko Date at Wimbledon 22 years ago.