Tennis Great's Response to Serena's Pregnancy: Racism

Not content with one controversy, Ilie Nastase starts two more
By Polly Davis Doig,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 23, 2017 9:36 AM CDT
Tennis Great Catches Heat for Comment on Serena Pregnancy
Former tennis player Ilie Nastase takes a seat on Centre Court, prior to the start of the match between Serena Williams and Venus Williams, at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon, London, July 6, 2015.   (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

Most people respond to news of a pregnancy with congratulations, but a septuagenerian tennis great is catching heat for allegedly responding to Serena Williams' baby news with commentary about the baby's biracial heritage. "Let's see what color it has. Chocolate with milk?" Ilie Nastase reportedly told a news conference on Friday, ahead of the Fed Cup. Nastase, 70, is the captain of Romania's women's tennis team, and is now under investigation by the International Tennis Federation, which says in a statement that it "does not tolerate discriminatory and offensive language." Further, "We are aware of alleged comments made by Romanian Captain Ilie Nastase and have begun an immediate investigation so that we have the full facts of the situation before taking further and appropriate action."

Nastase followed one controversy up with two more Saturday: he began cursing at two British players and an umpire, promptly getting himself ejected from the game for unsportsmanlike conduct. Nastase then reportedly cursed out the British journalist who reported his comments about Williams; Eleanor Crooks posted video of the incident, in which he allegedly says "Why did you print that?" and called her "stupid." The ITF says it has stripped Nastase of his captain's title and he won't be further involved in the Fed Cup. NBC notes that during his playing heyday in the 1970s, Nastase was nicknamed "Nasty." (Read more Ilie Nastase stories.)

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