Fact Check

Did Venus Williams Forfeit Tennis Match Because She Refused To Play Against Trans Athlete?

The claim former No. 1-ranked tennis ace Williams received a "standing ovation" for refusing to play a trans woman has circulated on social media.

Published April 17, 2024

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Image courtesy of Getty Images
Claim:
Venus Williams forfeited a tennis match because she refused to play against a transgender female athlete.

In late 2023, the claim emerged on social media platforms Facebook, Instagram and TikTok that Grand Slam tennis champion Venus Williams refused a match against a transgender player, sparking controversy and debate.

For example, in October 2023, the rumor was posted to the Facebook account America - Love It Or Leave It, along with the headline, "Venus Williams Gets a Standing Ovation for Refusing to Play a Trans Woman," where it received 61,000 "Likes" at the time of writing,?garnering significant attention and engagement, with users mostly expressing support for the narrative.

In April 2024, the rumor resurfaced, fueling speculation about Williams' stance on transgender athletes in sports.

(America - Love It Or Leave It?/ Facebook)

Interestingly, in the Facebook post, the alleged quote, "I'm not playing a guy," was attributed to actor and noted conservative Scott Baio rather than to Williams. A search of the content subscription service OnlyFans, which was named as the source of the quote, failed to bring up a page belonging to Baio.?

Moreover, several commenters were quick to point out that the Williams sister pictured in the post was not Venus, but rather, her younger sister, former No 1.-ranked player Serena Williams. For instance, one response on Instagram read, "First that's Serena! And good for her why should she play a man," while another responded, "Isn't this pic of Serena Williams?!?"

Examining the "About" section of the above Facebook page revealed it to be a self-described "Satire/Parody" account that shared the same contact details as Conservative Tears, a satire website from where the claim apparently originated.?

Conservative Tears had published the story in greater detail, asserting that Williams received a "standing ovation" for forfeiting a match against a trans woman from France, Joe "Josepheena" LaBarron. According to Conservative Tears, Williams said of her refusal to play against LaBarron:

"I'm not trying to be the next Billie Jean King," she said, "I'll play any man for charity or for fun, but this is my livelihood." Venus says she's never lost a competition to a man because she's never played one before and doesn't intend to start now.

However, no other details were given as part of this story, including where the alleged tennis match was to have taken place and if it was part of any big-name tournament. The reference to King,?widely regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all time, is likely due to her famous 1973 "Battle of the Sexes" exhibition match, in which she?defeated former No. 1-ranked men's tennis player?Bobby Riggs.

A search of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) database failed to unearth any player with the name Joe "Josepheena" LaBarron, as did a Google reverse image search using the photo of the player posted with the story.

Toward the end of the post from Conservative Tears, the writer revealed the absurdity of the story by referring to "sportsball analyzer" Tara Newhole, who shares the same name as a well-known drag performer, and who points out that the alleged trans tennis player in the photo isn't LaBarron, but rather, a professional tennis player named "Amelie Muresmo, a biological female with some masculine features who retired in 2009."

Indeed, the WTA website confirmed that?Amélie Mauresmo, the alleged transgender athlete pictured in the post, is a retired professional tennis player from France who was ranked No. 1 in 2004. Mauresmo is a biological woman, and the photo that was used as part of this satirical story can be found on her Wikipedia page.

According to the "About Us" section on the Conservative Tears website, the platform is part of a "network of parody, satire, and tomfoolery," indicating that the story claiming Williams refused to play against a transgender tennis player was fictitious and lacked any basis in reality or factual events.

Williams, 43, is presently ranked 447 in the world, following her career-high ranking of No. 1 in 2002, according to the WTA website.?She is the older sister of retired player Serena Williams, who won an impressive 73 singles titles during her career.?

Snopes has previously written about the Williams sisters, including Serena allegedly writing a message on social media about being sick of COVID-19, and a billionaire offering $1 billion to "breed" NBA star Lebron James with Serena.

For background, here is?why?we sometimes write about satire/humor.

Sources

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Nikki Dobrin is based in Los Angeles and has previously worked at The Walt Disney Company, as well as written and edited for People, USA Today and The Hill.