The Sports Thread For 3/20/15: The Lost Element of Serena's Return
As Serena Williams continues her campaign for the 2015 BNP Paribas Open title, one major thing lost in her remarkable return to the Indian Wells tennis center last week is the criminal justice group she surprisingly has highlighted.
The Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) was certainly an organization foreign to many people's ears when the legendary tennis player announced not only her Coachella Valley return but that her fans would be donating at least $10 to the EJI in a competition to meet her at Indian Wells. But the organization's noble ethos is something that can't be ignored, as the Alabama based non-profit center is focused on the unjust, racist incarceration system and racial inequality issues that still plague America, especially black and brown Americans.
It's why it was startling news that Serena, through the Omaze campaign, selected them in January as the group properly best suited for her unexpected return.
"Serena reached out to us, and we were so thrilled that she wanted to highlight the work we are doing to confront racial inequality and over incarceration in this country," said Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of EJI. "It's very rare that an athlete of her status wants to give voice to the issues that have long haunted this nation when it comes to racial inequality, when it comes to mass imprisonment, when it comes to providing help to people who are often marginalized and vulnerable."
Despite the combination of Serena and EJI being a notable story in itself, it has received barely any mention from the tennis mainstream media or other prominent outlets during the tournament. The fan winner of the contest, Donna, has only been mentioned by Omaze, and that was only because they had to announce her as the fortuitous fan.
It's an opportunity lost by the tennis media to not only describe the wonders that Serena is choosing to do in her return, but also draw positive attention to a standout group doing vital work. Especially when the EJI and criminal justice groups in general are not blessed with a constant stream of celebrity representatives to help their courageous fight.
"We have never had this happen before, that's why it's so exciting that it would come from arguably the greatest tennis player in women's history," Stevenson said. "That someone so accomplished would take this on makes this double exciting for us. "
And for Serena Williams, it's something arguably more exciting, and definitely more important, then winning a third Indian Wells title.
More to come from The Whole Delivery. Stay tuned.