Managers at Gianvito Rossi, a high-end shoe designer, allegedly called tennis superstar Serena Williams “disgusting” and gave her a smaller discount than the ones given to white celebrities.
The accusation was made by Whitney Wilburn, 46, who went to work for the shoe firm's Manhattan boutique in 2015. She has now filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against her former employee. She further added that her boss Grace Mazzilli had a “racial animosity toward African Americans.”
The lawsuit cites an incident when Williams’ staff contacted the store and inquired about celebrity discounts. However, the manager refused and later referred to her as “disgusting.” The lawsuit further accuses that Mazzilli “made it clear that the company did not want African American women to wear its shoes.”
The company was later forced to offer a discount after they were contacted by Vogue Magazine. Even then the manager gave a small amount of discount to the tennis player. It was much lesser than the ones offered to white celebrities, stated the lawsuit.
Wilburn further added in the lawsuit, “Mazzilli threw numerous elaborate dinner parties and social events for all boutiques managed by white employees … while never once holding an event for [her] Madison Avenue store.”
She worked for the firm for one and a half year and was the only black employee at the boutique. She further said Mazzilli reduced her responsibilities, sabotaged her work and eventually fired. She was later replaced by a white manager.
Williams’ has yet to respond to these comments. Mazzilli was reached out for a comment but an employee at Gianvito Rossi’s Manhattan boutique said she was unavailable to comment because she’s traveling in Italy.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the legend has been a victim of racial discrimination. Recently, she announced that she is pregnant with her first child with fiancé and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian, who is white, and will take time away from the tour.
Attacking Williams, Romanian tennis legend Ilie Nastase made a racist comment during a news conference, “Let's see what color it has. Chocolate with milk?” He made the racist remarks purportedly in reference to Williams' unborn child.
The 35-year-old athlete also received a lot of criticism when she announced her engagement with Alexis Ohanion.
@Gianvito_Rossi Just heard what you said about Serena Williams can't wait to RETURN the shoes I bought my mom for mother's day. Disgusting!— Blake (@Official_Lov) May 18, 2017
Banner/thumbnail credit: Reuters