NEW YORK — As Serena Williams strives for her first US Open title since 2014, she is offering support for her fellow Nike stablemate Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick took his niece to see Williams play on Aug. 31 in Arthur Ashe Stadium and Serena then visited with them after the match.
Kaepernick, who hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016 after he took a knee to protest racial injustice, is now the subject of a Nike ad campaign which depicts his image with the caption, “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”
“He’s done a lot for the African-American community, and it’s cost him a lot,” Williams said Tuesday of Kaepernick after advancing to the US Open semifinals with a straight-sets win over Karolina Pliskova. “It’s sad. But he continues to do the best that he can to support. Having a huge company back him could be a controversial reason for this company, but they’re not afraid. I feel like that was a really powerful statement to a lot of other companies.”
LeBron James, who has 41.5 million Instagram followers, also showed support for his Nike teammate by sharing the Kaerpnick Nike ad on Instagram.
Lani lost it when Serena surprised her after the match!!!
Thank you so much Serena!!! pic.twitter.com/MpR2KOSU1V
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 1, 2018
Serena said she supports athletes like Kaepernick who advocate social change through non-violent protest.
“I think everyone has a choice to do what they choose to do,” she said. “Whether they protest it, which is a peaceful protest actually, or not, that it’s the choice of being American. It doesn’t make them less American. We all make up this world, because we have different views and different views on different things, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be loving toward each other.”
Filmmaker Spike Lee compared Serena to Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan during an ESPN interview that aired Tuesday. Williams is now the subject of her own Nike ad which intersperses clips of her as a child being coached by her father, Richard, with modern-day clips of her competing. She’s also in a Chase ad in which she attends to her one-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia and then repeats lyrics from LL Cool J’s, “Mama Said Knock You Out.”
“To be compared to Ali or Jordan is just really, I really have no words,” Williams said in her on-court interview. “Namely Ali because he did so much for the sport. He did so much for the world and for everyone. For me, that’s what I want to be remembered for. It’s not what I do out here, it’s whether I can inspire people off the court so that’s my dream.”
On the court, Serena is two match wins from capturing her 24th career Grand Slam title, which would tie her with Margaret Court for first all-time.
She will meet No. 19 Anastasija Sevastova in the semifinals on Thursday after the Latvian dispatched defending US Open champ Sloane Stephens in brutal heat earlier Tuesday.
While Serena has won 23 major titles, the other five women who remained alive entering Wednesday had combined to win zero.
Still, Serena has lost in the semifinals in her last two US Open appearances, in 2015 to Roberta Vinci and in 2016 to Pliskova.
“I want to just get past the semis here,” said Serena, who turns 37 later this month. “It’s been a few couple rough semis for me, but this has been a great road and I’m really excited.”
Serena could have notched her 24th major at Wimbledon but lost to Angelique Kerber in the final, so she knows nothing is guaranteed this far into a major.
“I still know that no matter whether I’m in the semifinals or the finals, I have a really long way to go to win that,” she said. “Again, that proved to be true at Wimbledon.”
Win or lose, Williams will continue to be a role model for millions of people around the world. And she hopes to use that power for good.
"I'm never perfect," she said. "Just try to be the best that I can be. Maybe I can just influence one person, and that makes a change already."