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Shoe company accused of racism against Serena Williams in lawsuit

Larry Brown Sports logo Larry Brown Sports 5/19/2017 Steve DelVecchio
Serena Williams is the subject of a lawsuit involving a shoe company. © Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports Serena Williams is the subject of a lawsuit involving a shoe company.

A luxury shoe brand is being sued by a former employee who claims the way her boss spoke about Serena Williams revealed the type of racial discrimination that is commonplace for the company.

In a lawsuit obtained by the New York Post, Whitney Wilburn states that she was recruited to work for luxury shoe company Gianvito Rossi in 2015. Once she was hired, Wilburn claims her boss, Grace Mazzilli, immediately became “hostile to Wilburn based upon her race and age.” As an example of the blatant racism that was being practiced at the company, Wilburn recalled the way Mazzilli felt about Williams.

“For instance, when the world famous athlete Serena Williams, via her staff, asked for a discount on her extensive purchases, Gianvito managers responded with racially disparaging comments about Ms. Williams which made it clear that the company did not want African American women to wear its shoes,” the lawsuit says.

Wilburn says she heard her managers refer to Williams as “disgusting.” They initially refused to offer a discount but eventually caved due to pressure from someone at Vogue magazine, offering only a “fraction” of the discount white celebrities typically receive from the shoe company. Here’s more:

Wilburn also says Mazzilli, who is white, also “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 was the only black employee in the company for a year-and-a-half, the suit says.

When Mazzilli fired Wilburn “without warning or formal evaluation” in January 2017, she replaced her with a “much younger white manager,” the suit says.

Unfortunately, Williams is used to hearing racist remarks. An opponent recently made a totally uncalled for comment about Serena’s unborn baby, so this is nothing new. That certainly doesn’t make the behavior any less deplorable.

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