Canada's top-ranked female tennis player blames racism for relative obscurity
Published Thursday, May 17, 2018 7:59PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, May 17, 2018 8:16PM EDT
Canada’s top-ranked female tennis player has a troubling theory for why she’s not a household name: racism.
Twenty-one-year-old Francoise Abanda made her opinion known after a Twitter user asked why she doesn’t get the same amount of attention as her much-lauded peer, Eugenie Bouchard.
“I will never get the same treatment because I am black,” Abanda replied on her verified Twitter account Wednesday. “It’s the truth!”
The Montrealer, who turned pro in 2015, is currently ranked 128 by the Women's Tennis Association. Bouchard sits at 169.
Abanda, who climbed above Bouchard earlier this month, reached a career high standing of 111 in Oct. 2017. Bouchard, conversely, peaked at number five in 2014. But despite the latter athlete’s dramatic fall, she remains a media darling in part for her regular social media presence, her lucrative endorsement deals and her modelling work.
“I don’t want to bash Bouchard… we got along really well,” Abanda said on a conference call with reporters Wednesday from Slovakia, where she is currently competing in an International Tennis Federation tournament.
“I think the problem is a racial problem,” she added. “I have lived with racism in tennis growing up and playing in Quebec, and I'm just speaking the truth and what I've experienced.”
The child of Cameroonian immigrants, Abanda says she was once even told by an opponent at an under-12 tournament to “go back to your country.” In the conference call, Abanda also noted that the head injury she suffered at April’s Fed Cup received little media attention.
“I feel like when you're black, you don't get the same exposure that you should get for a player ranked 120,” she said. “I'm not asking to get the same recognition as other players who have achieved more, I'm just saying that there is a minimum that sometimes I don't even get.”
Abanda’s tweet has elicited a slew of reactions on social media, not all of which have been supportive. Her initial statement was also seized by left-leaning politicians in Quebec, who used them to attack the Coalition Avenir Quebec party’s nationalistic immigration policies.
“My whole point is that I really want to promote equality,” Abanada said of her divisive Tweet. “Beyond tennis, we're all human and we should all treat each other with respect, first of all, before even playing tennis.”
With reports from CTV Montreal and The Canadian Press
I will never get the same treatment because I am black. It’s the truth! https://t.co/TicR8OnWo0— Françoise Abanda (@franckie_abanda) May 16, 2018