At the start of the 2018 U.S. Open, Nike debuted a video of Richard Williams coaching his then 9-year-old daughter Serena Williams. The commercial juxtaposes the images of Richard crouched next to a tiny Serena as he says, “This is you in the U.S. Open.” The future icon bounces the ball and breathes before her serve. The commercial then descends into a montage showing the best athlete in the world dominating her competition.
Her father’s voice resonates during the whole commercial until the final scene showing an exuberant Richard celebrating in the stands as Serena wins the U.S. Open.
The commercial tagline reads: “It’s only crazy until you do it.”
Richard Williams saw something in his children long before the world did. He realized that he was raising superheroes—and not just any superheroes, but black superheroes. As such, they had to be protected and nurtured and reared differently than normal kids. Williams knew this and so his work became full time. What Williams was never going to do was let anyone convince him or his babies that they weren’t superheroes. Ever.
Rapper Ric Wilson posted a vintage video of 14-year-old Venus Williams being interviewed by an ABC reporter about an upcoming match. Venus says, “I know I can beat her.”
“You know you can beat her?” the reporter asks.
Venus simply smiles.
Reporter: “Very confident?”
Venus: “I’m very confident.”
Reporter: “You say it so easily. Why?”
At that point, Richard Williams interrupts the interview and tries to explain the work that is required to raise a superhero to a mere mortal. The mortal shoos the father away, explaining that Williams can’t keep interrupting. Williams then walks onto the set to get his point across the way that only a black dad can.
“You’ve got to understand that you’re dealing with [the] image of a 14-year-old child. And this child is gonna be out there playing when your old ass and me are gonna be in the grave,” Richard proclaims.
“When she say something, we done told you what’s happening,” he continued. “You’re dealing with a little black kid and let her be a kid.”
What’s even more telling is the sly smile that comes across Venus’ face. It’s a moment that every black person raising a superhero needs to see.
Venus knows that her father will protect her at all costs. She knows that the man who’s been with her since birth, coaching her to believe in what even she can’t see, is not going to let her fall. She knows that he will run through a brick wall for her, and that makes him a superhero, too.
And they know it.
Watch and remember: “It’s only crazy until you do it.”