Home Huffington Post, CNN News, Fox News, NYT, Drudge Report & Horoscope What is true and what is false in King Richard’s story?

What is true and what is false in King Richard’s story?

Rick Macci in real life on the left, and Jon Bernthal as King Richard on the right. Slate provided the illustration for this article. Ken Levine/Allsport and Warner Bros. photos
Rick Macci in real life on the left, and Jon Bernthal as King Richard on the right. Slate provided the illustration for this article. Ken Levine/Allsport and Warner Bros. photos

The founding tale of Venus and Serena Williams’ tennis superhero team is told in King Richard. The film’s focus, however, is not on the two sisters, but on their father, Richard Williams (played by Will Smith in a performance that has made him an early favorite for this year’s Best Actor Oscar), who, armed only with unwavering determination, a firm belief in his family’s destiny, and a bucketload of motivational slogans, brought his daughters from the run-down courts of Compton to dominance of the junior tournament circuit, fighting race-based preconceptions in

Williams was noted for taking an unusual approach to developing the sisters’ careers, such as removing them off the junior circuit and not allowing them to compete until they turned pro, and for challenging the coaches’ suggestions on shot technique and sneaker endorsements.

Despite the fact that the film was filmed with the family’s participation (Venus and Serena are executive producers), it does not shy away from showing how stubborn Richard can be, even if his gambles always pay off. We looked at decades of news pieces, as well as Richard and Serena Williams’ own memoirs, to see how much myth-making and how much actuality there is.

Venus and Serena’s Early Coaching by Richard Williams

As the rain pours down, we watch teenage Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton) hitting balls on the Compton court at night. Richard should be reported to social services, according to a neighbor, for forcing the girls to play in such bad weather.

A young Venus Williams both in real life and in the movie, as played by Saniyya Sidney. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Ken Levine /Allsport/Getty Images and Warner Bros.
A young Venus Williams both in real life and in the movie, as played by Saniyya Sidney. Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Ken Levine /Allsport/Getty Images and Warner Bros.

In fact, the sisters were expected to begin practicing as early as 6 a.m. and return after school, playing until dark in all weather (though drenching thunderstorms are uncommon in Southern California), and were sometimes not allowed to leave until they had returned 500 volleys. Richard tells them that they should practice in the rain since the balls would bounce better. It’s unclear whether this precise incident ever occurred, but Richard used similar tactics. “Half the time he wouldn’t want new balls, he’d use damaged balls to make the ladies run faster and bend lower,” Rick Macci, the girls’ coach, remembered. During matches, he would also throw a beer bottle to the rear of the court to keep the girls from going too far back. “I knew Venus and Serena had one thing in common: they’d run over broken glass to fetch a ball. “Richard threw shattered glass on the court a few occasions,” Macci added. “They wouldn’t back up and take the ball early since the glass was behind the baseline, back near the fence.”

Is it true that Richard fought a gang that was harassing Venus and Serena?

While the girls are playing tennis, a gang started trash-talking Yetunde, their older sister. Richard storms over and scolds him, inciting resentment, with the gang threateningly hovering around the court. They thrashed Richard viciously one night after practice when he was gathering tennis balls.

Serena Williams as a young woman in real life (left) and as played by Demi Singleton in King Richard (right). Slate provided the illustration for this article. Ken Levine/Allsport/Getty Images/Ken Levine/Allsport/Getty Images/Ken Levine/Allsport/Getty as well as Warner Bros.
Serena Williams as a young woman in real life (left) and as played by Demi Singleton in King Richard (right). Slate provided the illustration for this article. Ken Levine/Allsport/Getty Images/Ken Levine/Allsport/Getty Images/Ken Levine/Allsport/Getty as well as Warner Bros.

This, according to all reports, actually occurred. Serena Williams wrote in her memoir On the Line that the courts at Tragniew Park “were in awful shape.” Every now and then, there was shattered glass. There are cracks in the cement. Weeds are popping their heads through the cracks. Cans of soda, beer bottles, and fast-food wrappers… It wasn’t precisely Roland Garros’ Center Court, but it was all we knew.” She also mentions hearing gunshots as they were playing.

Meanwhile, Richard claims in Black and White that he tried to bargain with the group at first, but that they were uninterested. They beat him up after he refused to leave the courts, fracturing his nose, jaw, and fingers, as well as knocking out several of his teeth, with Richard noting, “To this day [I] wear my ‘toothlessness’ as a badge of courage.”

The portrayal of the gangs finally becoming proud of Venus and Serena’s success and protecting them from any outsiders who bothered them in the film is also genuine. “They would circle the court because they wanted the girls to perform well,” Patricia Moore, a former Compton City Councilwoman, said.

Is it true that Richard witnessed a gang member being shot in front of him?

Richard takes the gun he has access to as a security guard after the beating and goes on the quest for the gang leader. When the gang leader enters a fast food restaurant, Richard draws his revolver and appears to be about to fire, but a car appears out of nowhere and shoots the gangbanger in a drive-by shooting.

According to Richard’s memoir, he began taking a 12-gauge pump shotgun to the courts (not his job gun), which caused the gang to scatter. He never had a member in his sights with the intent to shoot, unlike in the movie. Instead, he writes, he went in search of the gang members, but when he couldn’t find any, he returned home in his Volkswagen van. He saw one of the gang members who had beaten him lying dead in the street, surrounded by police cars and ambulances, on his way home.

Despite the fact that Richard is shown as being fiercely protective of his family and determined to keep them off the rough streets, the Williamses have the financial means to relocate. Venus spent her first three years of life in peaceful Long Beach, California, until Richard moved his family to Compton, despite his wife’s concerns, since he believed the rugged environment would instill a fighter’s attitude in the girls. “My notion that the greatest champions came out of the Ghetto brought me to Compton,” he wrote. “I had researched athletes such as Muhammad Ali and famous philosophers such as Malcolm X. I was able to see where they came from.” “There was no location in the world that was tougher than Compton,” he told CNN. The ghetto will roughen you up, toughen you up, and make you strong. So that’s why I joined them in Compton.”

As if the gangs and gunfire weren’t enough, Williams paid schoolchildren to circle the courts and heckle Venus and Serena (not shown in the film), in the hopes of toughening the ladies up. “Criticism can bring out the best in you,” he told CNN at the time. He did so to prepare his daughters for the booing they may (and did) hear from white spectators at tournaments.

Yetunde Price (played by Mikayla Lashae Bartholomew in King Richard) was slain by gunfire in Compton in 2003, which was a sad irony.

Is it possible that Richard devised a strategy for his daughters’ success before they were born?

Richard visits the country club where John McEnroe and Pete Sampras’ coach, Paul Cohen (Tony Goldwyn), is holding practice sessions. He convinces Cohen to watch the girls hit a few balls and tells the coach that he prepared a 78-page plan to turn them become champions before they were even born. Later, he tells Macci the same thing.

This corresponds to Williams’ own statements. He witnessed the winner of the French Open receive a $40,000 check while watching it on TV by chance in 1980, inspiring him to tell his wife Oracene “Brandy” Williams (played by Aunjanue Ellis in the film), “We’ll have two kids, and we’ll become rich.” “They’re going to be tennis players,” says the narrator. He’s also claimed that he plied Brandy with romantic dinners and, less sweetly, hid her birth-control pills when she wasn’t on board with the program at initially. After immersing himself in tennis periodicals, watching tennis videos to learn how to play the game, and joining a tennis club, Williams drafted a 78-page plan.

Venus and Serena Williams are being pulled from the junior tennis circuit.

After Jennifer Capriati, a teenage tennis prodigy, is arrested for marijuana possession and appears to be on the verge of burnout, Richard pulls Venus and Serena off the junior circuit, despite Venus’ meteoric rise up the rankings and interest from agents, declaring that they will not play any more tournaments until they turn pro. “They’re going to be kids,” Richard tells the coach, despite Macci’s (and everyone else’s) strident objections.

Rick Macci in real life on the left, and Jon Bernthal as King Richard on the right. Slate provided the illustration for this article. Ken Levine/Allsport and Warner Bros. photos
Rick Macci in real life on the left, and Jon Bernthal as King Richard on the right. Slate provided the illustration for this article. Ken Levine/Allsport and Warner Bros. photos

Williams did, in fact, take this risky step. “They all thought Richard was nuts,” said legendary tennis coach Nick Bollettieri. But he performed something that no one else had done before. He held them back from tournaments, teaching them technique and encouraging them to go for it.”

Is It True That Richard and Venus Turned Down a Nike Contract?

Venus receives a $3 million contract from Nike when she enters her first pro tournament, the Bank of the West Classic in Oakland, at the age of 14. Nike wants to build a brand around her. Richard, once again taking the contrarian approach, declares that they will not accept the first offer they receive, despite Macci’s warning that if Venus loses, the offers may dry up. Venus makes it to the final before falling to the world No. 2 by a razor-thin margin.

Richard did back out of the Nike contract, but he was justified seven months later when Reebok signed Venus to a five-year endorsement deal worth an estimated $12 million, a record sum for a relative newbie. Williams’ lawyer Keven Davis, who really mediated the Nike contract, claimed, “Richard said he wasn’t going to do anything right then.” “I thought he was taking a big risk.” We were all mistaken, and he proved it.”

Is it true that Venus speaks four languages?


Venus speaks four languages because “Venus doesn’t want to be broke,” Richard says Macci.

Williams, a straight-A student in junior high, studied French and German before moving on to Italian, which she called “my finest language” in 2019 and added, “the unexpected language that I know a reasonable amount of is Chinese.”

In any case, how many children does Richard have?

Richard and Brandy had a large dispute in which Brandy claims Richard believes he produced the girls’ success on his own, neglecting the critical role she played. When Richard leaves the room, she reminds him that that’s what he does—walk away from failed businesses and his other children, recalling her surprise when Richard’s long-lost son reappears.

There was more than one long-lost son for Richard. He had five children from a previous marriage in 1965, three boys and two girls. Although he repeatedly tells his Brandy family (Venus and Serena, as well as Brandy’s three daughters from a previous marriage) that he will always be there for them and will not abandon them like his father did, in reality, he abandoned his first family when all five children were under the age of eight and had no further contact with them. “I was eight years old when my father left and claimed he was going to purchase me a bike, and it was the last time I saw him.” Later, my mother informed me that dad would never return. “We went from having everything to having nothing,” his eldest daughter Sabrina told the Sun tabloid in the United Kingdom in 2020, adding, “He’s not a dad, he was just a sperm donor.” He had five children and left them to my mother to raise in poverty, never assisting her.” Sabrina further claimed that she has “between fifteen and nineteen” half-siblings “all over the place, from LA to Louisiana,” according to her. After Brandy and Richard divorced in 2002, he married Lakeisha Juanita Graham, a woman a year Venus’s age, with whom he had a son in 2012, however the couple has since split.

Read Also: Venus Williams Bio: net worth, husband, siblings, height, age, daughter

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