Yesterday, women’s tennis star Maria Sharapova shocked the sports world by admitting to using the performance-enhancing drug meldonium for the last 10 years of her career after it was revealed that she failed a drug test administered just before this year’s Australian Open.
In light of the news, several huge companies including Nike and Volkswagon have suspended their endorsement partnerships with Sharapova while she remains under investigation and continues to face considerable backlash from the public. Sharapova has long held the title of the world’s highest-paid female athlete and has lived in that space for a large majority of her career, despite the existence of another female athlete who is regarded by most as the greatest tennis player of all time, (and one who has continuously beaten Sharapova in every match up over the last 13 years) one Serena Williams.
While there’s no argument that she’s been a stellar athlete in her own right up to this point, it’s not Sharapova’s talent, skillset or performance on the tennis court that gives her the edge over Williams in the earnings department and interestingly enough, each of their 2015 salaries prove as much. According to Forbes, Serena raked in a cool $11.6 million in 2015 from her yearly salary and winnings. Sharapova, on the other hand, trailed significantly by comparison, earning a total of $6.7 million in salary and winnings. However, as is often the case with professional sports figures of their caliber, these superstar athletes make just as much off the court as the do on…..but that’s where things take a strange shift when comparing their earnings.
Despite a consistent record of success that thoroughly supports the public labeling Serena as one of (if not the) the greatest female athletes of our time, she often gets the short end of the stick relative to Sharapova when it comes to brand endorsements. Case in point, Sharapova’s endorsement earnings last year topped out at a whopping 23 million to Serena’s 13 million — a noticeable $10 million dollar gap with the higher paid athlete coming up short. While there’s no reason or merit to compare Williams to Sharapova as a means of measuring her success in any aspect, it doesn’t make the blaring truth of a white woman finding favor with more of the world’s largest brands than her superiorly-matched African-American opponent solely because of the difference in their physical appearances any less apparent.
Regardless of what you think of Maria Sharapova’s recent announcement, if you’ve ever found yourself regarding her as a formidable, equally as talented or “rival” opponent of Serena’s on the tennis court, listen up. Make sure you speak out with that same passion about the lack of mainstream brands who blatantly refuse to put Serena on the same pedestal as their blonde-haired, blue-eyed go-to girl because of the color of her skin or natural tone of her body, especially since the very culture of the woman they continue to box out is the one that’s played a vital role in keeping so many of them in business all along.
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