‘King Richard’: Did 14-YO Venus Williams Turn Down Million Dollar Nike Deal in Reality?

The tennis superhero duo of the Williams sisters is a household name across the globe. Venus and Serena Williams are two of the most dominant stars the sport has ever seen, their accolades speaking for them.

Despite not having played for the second half of the 2021 season, both sisters are still the talk of the town. This is because of the new Oscar-contending movie ‘King Richard, which graced cinemas recently.

The movie is a biographical drama about Richard Williams, the father of the Williams sisters. It depicts how he spared no effort in training his girls and turning them into the biggest female athletes in the world.

How much does the movie get right?

With both Venus Williams and Serena Williams as the executive producers for the movie, it was certainly going to be a near-accurate account of the girls’ histories. A key moment towards the beginning of the third act of the movie is one such example.

Demi Singleton, Serena Williams, Venus Williams and Saniyya Sidney attend the 2021 AFI Fest Closing Night Premiere screening for “King Richard” at TCL Chinese theatre in Los Angeles, California, U.S. November 14, 2021. REUTERS/Ringo Chiu

When Venus was about to play her first competitive match in three years, the night before the game, Richard and Venus were approached by a Nike executive. The executive offered Venus a $3 million endorsement contract.

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However, the deal was only valid before Venus stepped onto the court the next day. As per the movie, Richard and Venus herself decided to turn down the offer. They believed that Venus should put on a display of her skills first instead of simply lunging at the money.

“You asking this girl to take all the hard work she done did for the last ten years, and accept the first offer that come through the door?” Richard is quoted saying in the movie.

Venus’ coach warned them that the offers may dry up if Venus were to lose. However, they decided to walk away from the Nike deal nevertheless.

Richard and Venus Williams were vindicated soon after

Richard Williams warms up for a photo with his daughter Venus Williams during a training session | Credits: Getty Images

The decision to walk away from the Nike deal proved to be correct in hindsight. Richard sternly and steadfastly believed that a better offer would come through eventually when Venus put the world on notice. Much like most of his predictions and affirmations, this one came true as well.

Seven months after the first offer, Reebok signed Venus Williams to an unprecedented $12 million deal for five years. Their lawyer, Keven Davis, recalled doubting their initial decision. However, Richard once again proved him wrong.

“Everything he says is very well thought out and intends a certain result. Ninety-nine times out of 100, he (Richard) gets that result,” Davis said in a 1999 interview with Sports Illustrated.

“I thought he was taking a serious gamble. He proved us all wrong,” Davis said.

Without a doubt, the Williams sisters proved everyone wrong at every stage in their career, and so did their father.

DIVE DEEPER: “Proud of One Another”: Reel Sisters From ‘King Richard’ on the ‘One Love’ Between Venus and Serena Williams

 

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