Taylor Townsend has a body like Serena…and that’s a problem.

Townsend, the number one junior women’s player in the world, nearly missed a spot in last week’s U.S. Open because U.S. Tennis Association (USTA) told her they weren’t going to finance her appearance in anymore tournaments until she got into better shape.

Like many black, female athletes, Townsend is not stick-thin. At 5’6”, she weighs about 170-pounds. Despite being the top-ranked player on the junior’s circuit and winning the Australian Open earlier this year, the brass at the USTA aimed to pull the teen from the U.S. Open and any other tournaments until she loses weight.

But should she?

Townsend said she was devastated when her USTA coaches told her she couldn’t compete in the U.S. Open.

“It was definitely shocking,” the teen said. “I was actually very upset. I cried. I was actually devastated. I mean, I worked really hard, you know, it’s not by a miracle that I got to number one. I’m not saying that to be conceited or anything, but it’s not just a miracle or it didn’t just fall upon me just because my name’s Taylor.”

After her Australian Open win, the Chicago teen who now lives at the USTA center in Florida, ditched fast food and incorporated running and weight-lifting into her training routine. But the wasn’t enough for Patrick McEnroe, the general manager of the USTA’s player development program. McEnroe explained why the USTA refused to finance Townsend’s slot in the Open.

“Our concern is her long-term health, number one, and her long-term development as a player,” he explained the Wall Street Journal. “We have one goal in mind: For her to be playing in [Arthur Ashe Stadium] in the main draw and competing for major titles when it’s time. That’s how we make every decision, based on that.”

Taylor Townsend at the US OpenBut as the Bleacher Report points out, concerns about Townsend’s health didn’t prevent the USTA from allowing her to play in both the singles and the doubles competition in the Australian Open earlier this year, in which Townsend had to pull a double-header and play twice in one day.

So what gives?

According to Townsend’s mother—a former tennis player at Lincoln University—the USTA didn’t give them any specifics as to why her daughter was denied.

“I actually asked them if they would give me some specifics so that I can help facilitate helping her to understand what they were doing and the reasoning behind what they were doing,” Shelia Townsend told ABC News. “I never was able to get it.”

Instead, Townsend’s mother did what any committed parent would do: she paid the entry fees and financed her daughter’s way into the U.S. Open. With mounting pressure and amid the ire of her coaches, Taylor lost in the semi-finals, but brought home the double’s title with her partner, Gabrielle Andrews, making it her third Grand Slam doubles title this year.

While the McEnroe later said the USTA’s refusal to fund Townsend’s birth in the U.S. Open had “nothing to do with weight; it has nothing to do with body type,” they have decided to reimburse Townsend’s mother, calling the entire situation a “miscommunication.”

Hearing of Taylor Townsend’s predicament conjured of thoughts of Serena and Venus Williams.

For years the sisters and their father have alleged that the USTA continuously overlooked racist incidents, and when the sisters first burst on the scene, Serena was seen as fat, out of shape, and too big to be a serious athlete (and the comments on many articles mentioning Townsend suggest the same).

If Taylor Townsend was overweight and unable to compete on the court, then I would agree that she needs to take some time off and focus on her fitness. But the USTA’s insistence that the teen lose weight, despite the fact that she’s the top ranked player in the world and is playing well (and many of the sport’s legends are outraged at her treatment), shows that some don’t quite understand that not all black women can simply fit into the stick-thin, cookie cutter mold of their mostly blonde competitors.

227 Comments

  1. Would pull her out. I would. Serenas father trained them st home just bc of this reason.im not having my daughter bulimic so she can be sick and not b blessed with her own body type just to play. Nope.

    • i’d like a source that says oracene and richard didn’t allow them to play too many junior’s tournaments and be too involved in the circuit because of weight issues. if you look at early pictures of v and serena, they were both very lean. when serena won the us open in ’99 she was not fat. i don’t think serena has ever looked like this – the only time she ever looked like this girl – with a muffin top – was during the aussie open when she beat sharapova to win. actually, i think she was a bit leaner.

      so, i’m calling total b.s. on what you’ve expressed.

      richard and oracene didn’t want them them to play juniors because of the overzealous competitive nature of the juniors circuit. and, they didn’t want the girls to be washed up and burned out like so many players.

      i suspect you really don’t watch tennis or know anything about the sport.

      please have seat.

    • Might I ask why you were so rude to her? Couldn’t a simple correction have sufficed?

    • i was not nearly as rude as i could have been. that comment is silly.

    • I agree omfg and I’m glad you called out the muffin top because it seems to be something everyone has overlooked. Its easier for people to go the “stop fat bashing” route than to critically think and come to the conclusion that she does need to lose weight. She said herself she cut out fastfood and incorporated running and weight lifting into her workout regiment. My question is as an athlete why wasn’t she doing those things before?

  2. Chillyroad

    I am a black woman and not built like Taylor Townsend. She has about 25 lbs on me and is an inch taller. Black women’s bodies come in all different sizes. Really, they do. I dont feel it necessary to defend every woman’s body type simply because they are black. Personally, I wouldnt want to wake up and be Serena’s size. If Venus were shorter, I would want to be shaped like her. Serena’s body gets the job done on the court but it shouldnt be as valued for its aesthetics like a Sports Illustrated model.

    • LaNubiana

      What on earth are you saying? Your statement above is full of contradiction. First you stated that we (black women) come in different sizes and in the same breath your suggesting that Serena’s body doesn’t have the right asthmatics for sports illustrated? According to whom? By who’s standard?

      Bloody hell! Tyra Banks body didn’t have anything to do with sport yet it was on the cover. Taylor and Serena’s jobs isn’t to model rather play tennis, and I must say they are brilliant at it.

      In addition, what is wrong with defending someone because they are black? Whether you want to admit it or not, the odds are against us in the global stage. So, if we aren’t to support our own, who else is going to do it?

      Lastly, Taylor is #1 in the US and WORLD in her age group and she is only 16. She has not yet done growing. That’s a bloody hell of an accomplishment for a young girl, much less a black girl in a primarily white sport such as Tennis. As we put forward the consideration that she may be ‘big bone’ in aesthetics, this should cause for one to contemplate that this perhaps is her best performing weight and shape. Aesthetics doesn’t scale/gage endurance or stamina. If you are familiar with Tennis, you would know the top female players were what USTA considered ‘over weight’ aesthetically. That includes Serena Williams, Victoria Azarnka, Lindsay Devonport, etc.. On the other hand aesthetics players such as Anna Kournikova while being famous for her looks, she goes down in history as one of the worst Tennis players with 0 singles wins.

    • anthony

      You are 100% right. Great athletes have bodies that let them win, not look cute on magazine covers. That is especially true in a sport like tennis where the greatest players pack some serious muscle like Serena Williams or Raphael Nadal.

    • ChillyRoad

      LuNubiana

      Sorry about that. I was referring to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. I should have made that clear. Of course, Serena, Taylor Townsend and any other outstanding athlete should get their recognition by sport magazines but not fashion magazines or beauty magazines unless they are lucky enough to be both physically beautiful and athletically talented a la Candace Parker or Marion Jones.

      Lastly Serena Williams doesn’t have a black woman’s body. She doesn’t have a body that is very common among black women or any woman. Her body is very unique. The average black woman has more in common physically with the average white woman than any of us do with Serena Williams.

    • i must admit seeing these types of stories on clutch is always bizarre

      Does anyone at clutch know anything about sports, athletic endeavors, fitness, etc.

      among those who post stories on clutch, who can claim to be an athlete or are very fit/live an active healthy lifestyle? imo, seems like almost no one.

      why is there an assumption that to be a black woman is to be fat, or to use the ridiculous ignorant and ghetto expression, “big boned”? black women nowadays are large. back in the day, we, as everyone else in the united states, were much much smaller.

      it’s so annoying when black women try to use some ridiculous genetic reason to excuse away their overly ample girth and backside. no, black women in the united states are fat not because we are big-boned or just naturally fat. we are fat because we eat too much of the wrong stuff and don’t get enough activity. simple as that. get over it folks.

      black women are overly sensitive about weight issues. please stop and just lose the weight.

    • @ChillyRoad

      Serena is a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition model.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Se_s5dmrSw

      favorite issue of all time.

      she has a much better body than Candace Parker or Marion Jones. Marion Jones was on performance enhancing drugs that eliminated all curves and Parker is just tall and skinny. Great athletes, but neither is coming close to Serena. Serena has the absolute best body in professional athletics. perfect combination of fitness and voluptuousness.

      Serena’s body is pretty common among black women that I have seen and know personally. It’s not that unique at all. Candace Parker has an extremely unique body, but Serena is fairly common.

    • I agree. Being 5’6″ and weighing 170 lbs is absolutely shocking…my mouth dropped when I read that. Good for her being an exceptional athlete but baby girl needs to drop some pounds.

    • anthony

      I can only assume you are no sports fan. If you have ever watched sports like football, baseball, hockey, etc. you would know that muscular athletes often weigh more than the numbers suggested on insurance tables. Why would it be different for women athletes?

    • Georgia

      I’m 5’6″, and at 170 pounds I’m about a size 8-10. How in the world is this too large?

    • LaNubiana

      Muscle weigh more than fat.

    • @anthony: I actually really enjoy sports. Well men’s sports, I don’t care too much for women’s sports except volleyball.

      @Georgia: I’m a 2/4 so for me to imagine myself at an 8/10 is nothing short of horrifying. That’s just for me however for others, including yourself, that’s just fine.

    • Ms. Information

      Muscle weighs more than fat…as a former athlete (track) I weighed 170 at 5’8 and wore as size 7/8..my waistline was a 25..what is fat about her…some of you really sound stupid.

    • Ms. Info: everyone knows muscle weighs more than fat, you’re not sharing anything new under the sun. Sure I’d take the 170 in muscle over the 170 in fat but I’d much rather not take weighing 170 at all. Wearing a 7/8 for you is fine, for me it is not. There’s nothing stupid about that.

    • Ms. Information

      Being ignorant at any size is the problem. Being judgemental at a 2 or a 22 is what is wrong with some women.

    • You say judgmental like its a bad thing haha. Ahh I see we’re taking the “ignorant” route to voice disapproval of commentary on a blog. Nice :)

    • Ms. Information

      Well…yes..you assume that being smaller is an automatic indication of health…there are different body types..there are cases where people in normal weight get cancer and all type of maladies..I am not condoning obesity..but you are confusing obesity with body type and muscle structure..my best friend is the sister of a very well known muscular NBA player…she is pure muscle, weighs 200 at 5’11 and is fit like her brother, running 5k’s and coaching basketball… you know what they say about assumptions.

    • @Ms. Info: see now with your assumptions you’ve made an ass out of both of us, more so yourself because you by reading a couple have comments have managed to work up what I seem to think. Touche, you belong on Criminal Minds with such sharp and analytical skills. That basketball player is not Ms. Townsend so your parallel is sort of stupid. At 16 I was 5’7″ and weighed 120 lbs and was an athlete. At 16 Ms. Townsend is 5’6″ and weighs 170 lbs. I highly doubt that extra 50 lbs she has is pure muscle like you keep saying but its her body not mine. Muscle or no muscle, weighing 170 lbs may be perfectly alright for you and anybody else. With the standards I set FOR MYSELF it is not alright to weigh that much and thats perfectly fine.

    • Janaè

      But you look big as hell on your picture though.

    • Haha nice one Janaè!!

    • Ms. Information

      Guys it makes no sense to argue with someone who doesn’t understand genetics and muscle structure…everyone is not meant to be the same size and weight…everyone is meant to be healthy…everyone is an individual. I can tell that Sasha is young..life will teach her though..no need for me to do it. Being skinny means nothing with an ugly heart.

    • while 5’6″ 170 may not be optimal, 5’7″ 120 is way underweight for any decent athlete in pretty much any sport. If you have any passable amount of muscle mass that is way too skinny to be of any use in sports. Elite distance runners usually aren’t that skinny.

      To critique someone else when you were so far away from any sort of optimal weight seems a bit misplaced.

      BTW, muscle doesn’t weigh more than fat, it’s more dense than fat. a pound of muscle and a pound of fat weigh the same thing — a pound. Weight isn’t a characteristic of materials. Muscle can weigh anything depending on the volume. A person with a higher body muscle % will weigh more than someone of the same size and volume. Being fat is about volume, and body fat%. Taylor Townsend can lose body fat without losing weight. Her weight doesn’t need to drop in order for her to achieve an optimal body fat%. Thus, Taylor doesn’t actually need to shed any pounds even if it would be helpful to reduce her body fat%.

  3. Chillyroad

    I forgot to add that no one should be discriminated against. If she has talent, let the girl play.

  4. This is ridiculous. She’s the NUMBER ONE athlete in her sport, there’s NOTHING unhealthy about that, no matter what she weighs. Ridiculous.

  5. concrete rose

    I’ve always had the same problem. (accept I’m not ranked number 1 and as accomplished as this young lady). Anyway, My body is not designed to be efficient at 5 ft 8 and 115 pounds. I am mainly gluten free, chocolate, dairy, and wheat free. However, i have to eat enough to fuel my body for school and sports. I’ve never fit anybody’s quota esp not playboy. I honestly never understood why people like my body shape (First Lady (she rocks it though!). It gathers way too much attention for all the wrong reasons at the wrong times. Every other animal in the animal kingdom just are ( I am that I am) while humans struggle to fit some standard that you have to die to get. I digress. idk

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