OLYMPICS: Serena Williams Brings Crip Walk to Centre Court? What Did She Mean?


LONDON, ENGLAND – The Queen of England was coming to Wimbledon for the first time in 33 years, and it was a special moment that Serena Williams opened up for. She was a little giddy and a lot respectful about the chance to curtsy for the Queen on Centre Court.

“I’m definitely going to work on it a little more,’’ Williams said. “I’m trying to tone down my wrist action. But my curtsy is really fun. It’s something that she’ll definitely never forget, if I ever get a chance to meet her.’’

That was two years ago, and when the big day came, Wimbledon officials placed Williams out on Court 2, where the Queen wouldn’t see her. Instead, Serena was on a court of the people, not a high-dollar show court. Williams never complained, but instead stayed after the match and signed autographs for kids who couldn’t normally see her.

So let’s be a little careful about how far we go with Williams’ little victory dance Saturday on Centre Court, in front of royalty, after winning the Olympic gold medal. She beat Maria Sharapova 6-0, 6-1 in maybe the greatest match of her career, and surely the most dominant week. The Great American Tennis Story, from Compton to Centre Court, had her own crowning moment.

And instead of a curtsy, she did a Crip Walk on Centre Court. It’s a hip-hop street dance move, done by gang members over dead bodies. It was started in Compton by gang members. But it has, to some extent, begun to break into pop culture, though MTV once declined to show any videos that included the walk.

So was that a cocky endzone dance from Williams? Payback for stiffing her in front of the Queen? Or maybe rubbing it in to Sharapova, the stereotypical white tennis ideal – tall, blonde, thin and beautiful – who gets more endorsement money than Williams despite lesser accomplishments? Or maybe it was a raised middle finger at the tennis world for all Serena has been through over the years?

Well, it’s possible that it was any one, or all of those things. But I think mostly, it was just Williams’ celebrating the way Williams’ celebrates, acting out of joy, and not in-your-face. It was not an intentional snub. It was unplanned.

It’s impossible to say for sure, though. And this just shows how the disconnect between the Williams sisters and tennis, and certainly tennis’ history, strangely lives on uncomfortably.

“It was just me,’’ Williams said. “I love to dance. I didn’t know what else to do. I was so happy, and next thing I know, I started dancing and moving. I didn’t plan it. It just happened.’’

She shouldn’t have done it. She should have known better. Her own sister was murdered, and a crip member pleaded no contest. While plenty of the tennis media, and probably nearly everyone at Wimbledon, didn’t know what she had done, it’s hard to believe that Williams didn’t know.

It still seemed to be just a joyful celebration after winning a gold medal. And I think it was without purpose.

Look, this isn’t easy. It’s uncomfortable, and the pieces still don’t all fit right. But that’s not the Williams’ sisters fault. It’s tennis’ fault.

The Williams sisters are the solution.

Venus and Serena Williams have dominated Wimbledon for a decade. It is the seat of tennis history, all parts good and bad. It should be a perfect fit by now.

There was no worse sign of manners than when Williams was pushed off to Court 2. I think Williams’ crip walk was not a conscious thing on her part, but an accidental release.

A conscious thing was for Williams to practice her curtsy. A conscious thing was for Wimbledon to put her on Court 2 when the Queen was coming.

That moment two years ago moved me. In fact, even when the Queen was involved in the Olympics Opening Ceremony 10 days ago, on Twitter I snarked (is that a verb?) that they had asked Serena to do her athletes’ march not into the Olympic Stadium but instead at Court 2.

Serena has not been perfect. We all saw her go nuts to a line judge at the U.S. Open, threatening and dropping f-bombs. And then it took her a few days to apologize, pressured into it by her handlers. Later, she all-but recanted her apology anyway, saying she had been right all along. It’s hard to remember a time when Williams said she was wrong about anything.

At one point Saturday, she told reporters that she wouldn’t say what the name of her dance move was, that it was inappropriate. That, presumably, meant that she knew what it was. Then, she told a reporter that she hadn’t done it before and didn’t know where it came from.

So sometimes her stories don’t quite add up.

But Venus and Serena are changing the tennis world. Improving it. They won gold in doubles Sunday at Wimbledon, a day after Serena beat Sharapova. That’s two gold medals for the Great American Tennis Story in one weekend.

Tennis owes them one perfect curtsy.


About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at FoxSports.com and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

6 responses to “OLYMPICS: Serena Williams Brings Crip Walk to Centre Court? What Did She Mean?

  • Bill Bell

    Shoeless Joe was NEVER convicted in a court of law of ANY wrongdoing and vowed 2 end of his life he didn’t throw the Series.

    Look @ his stats…he had a helluva Series for a guy who supposedly “threw” it!

  • Claire

    THANK YOU! Finally, a writer with intelligence! As long as there is the term “African American” in the English language, there will never be an end to racisim. They either call themselves “African” or they call themselves “Americans”, but there is no such thing as both.

    • marcia millbanks

      ?!? You cannont be serious. Surely you are not suggesting that merely what black people call themselves was the reason for racism! They were discriminated against much more long BEFORE they began calling themselves African-American!

  • marcia millbanks

    Greg Couch made sense up until he started his usual nonsense trying to suggest alleged “dishonesty” on Serena’s part when NONE exists. Anyone else reading Serena’s two comments concerning the “Crip Walk” would probably correctly think she meant either she didn’t know “where it came from” as far as she is concerned and was therefore suggesting it was spontaneous, or that she did not know who, Exactly, created the dance.

    Many classy people in ballrooms and competitions all over the world dance the Argentine Tango. But the Argentine Tango originated in BROTHELS in Argentina. Icky floozies and their icky “customers” were the first to dance it. Does that mean that regular,moral people who danced it later were “glorifying” prostitution? Of course not!

    Similarly, the Crip Walk has leapt the boundaries of its origins. It’s even been danced by innocent Children all over this country for many years! The dance incorporates joyous, innocent movement that is not the Least bit risque. Couch is right in stating the obvious: Serena breaking into the dance was clearly just a spontaneous expression of sheer innocent joy!
    The Crip Walk has similarly leapt the boundaries of its origins. It’s even been danced by innocent Children all over this country for many years!

    The Crip Walk has leapt the boundaries of its origins as well, and has been danced all over this country by even innocent Children for years! The moves in the dance are innocent and not the least bit

  • marcia millbanks

    ?!? Don’t know why the last paragraph of my post was repeated.

  • marcia millbanks

    Btw, the “footfault” call was NOT a “good” call at all. And for the vast majority of tennis pros, those who commentate and people who really HAVE been following tennis much LONGER than Couch– and who have watched many footfaults NOT get called late in matches by honest, FAIR officials who really did not much CARE who won, the linesjudge in Serena’s situation was not just wrong — but horrifically so.

    But Alves has strangely gotten to still “officiate” matches, too. And after her brazen, demonic cheating of Serena in the 2004 U.S. Open, either her bank account and/or her Klan affiliations should have been investigated!

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