Tennis star Sloane Stephens said Monday she believes that racist comments and behavior toward Black athletes is getting worse.
The 2017 U.S. Open champion, who won a straight-sets victory over Karolina Plíšková in the French Open first round, told reporters afterward that Black athletes face increasing abuse online.
“Yes, it’s obviously been a problem my entire career,” Stephens said (via USA Today). “It has never stopped. If anything, it’s only gotten worse.”
And Stephens said the abuse goes beyond mere racist comments into the territory of serious threats.
“I mean, obviously when there is FBI investigations going on with what people are saying to you online, it’s very serious,” Stephens said (via ESPN).
French Open officials announced before the tournament that players would have access to Bodyguard.ai technology, software that blocks racist and threatening comments on social media platforms. It could also record the comments for further investigation by authorities.
Stephens said she had not activated the software, but she thinks people with bad intent will find a way around it.
“I did hear about the software. I have not used it,” Stephens said. “I have a lot of obviously key words banned on Instagram and all of these things, but that doesn’t stop someone from just typing in an asterisk or typing it in a different way, which obviously software most of the time doesn’t catch.”
The 30-year-old Stephens has won seven career singles titles and earned more than $17 million. She is currently ranked No. 30 in the world.
[USA Today; Roland-Garros]