Backlash Over Serena Williams Winning Sportsperson Of The Year, Fans Wanted American Pharoah

Backlash Over Serena Williams Winning Sportsperson Of The Year, Fans Wanted American Pharoah
Serena Williams Jimmy Baikovicius / Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0
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Serena Williams, arguably the greatest female tennis player in history, had a wonderful 2015. In recognizing her feats, Sports Illustrated named the younger of the Williams sisters the 2015 Sportsperson of the Year. However, horse-racing fans are crying foul that Triple Crown-winning thoroughbred American Pharoah was snubbed, despite leading the poll for the award.


Williams won 53 of her 56 matches in 2015, including three Grand Slam events, besides holding onto the No 1 ranking all through the year. She also improved her overall Grand Slam tally to 21.

Are fans right in protesting (see tweets below) that a horse should have won the prestigious award? In fairness to American Pharoah, the thoroughbred isn’t just any other horse. He is, in fact, horse racing’s first Triple Crown winner in 37 years. And SI’s poll actually revealed the horse as the clear winner. And yet, the magazine chose to honor Williams.

First Black Woman To Win Award

Sports Illustrated offered an explanation, stating that the 34-year-old Serena Williams was recognized for more than just her on-court achievements. “We are honoring Serena Williams too for reasons that hang in the grayer, less comfortable ether, where issues such as race and femininity collide with the games,” wrote SI’s Christian Stone.

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“Race was used as a cudgel against Williams at Indian Wells in 2001, and she returned the blow with a 14-year self-exile from the tournament. She returned to Indian Wells in ’15, a conciliator seeking to raise the level of discourse about hard questions, the hardest ones, really,” Stone further wrote.

The disagreement between fans and the magazine has ballooned. The Los Angeles Times wrote an article in which it argues the actual criteria for winning the award.

Who is more deserving of the award? Serena Williams or American Pharoah?


  • Bruno Rosacker

    The award should’ve gone to the horse racing team (teams have won before). This would’ve skirted the equine versus human debate, while acknowledging the incredible accomplishment of winning both the Triple Crown and Breeders’ Cup.

    • Warren

      couldn’t agree more.