Yesterday, Sports Illustrated officially named Serena Williams their Sportsperson of the Year. But the pick was not without controversy. Was it because Serena Williams is black? Because she’s a woman? Nope. It’s because she’s not a horse.
You see, SI had asked for fan input on the decision, and fans overwhelmingly voted for American Pharoah, a horse, to be named the Sportsperson of the Year. This horse doesn’t even know what a magazine is. It doesn’t know what words are. It barely comprehends that it won some races. But alas, it should be Sportsperson of the year.
SI smartly ignored the advice of the horse-lovers and named an actual human the Sportsperson of the Year (though she finished 11th in fan voting). Those horse people are pretty mad, though. In an explanation on SI’s website, Christian Stone explained the decision:
“In the end, as you already know, we chose Serena Williams, and even amid such a rich collection of finalists, she was a decisive choice. Sports Illustrated honors her dominance in 2015, when she won 53 of her 56 matches, three of the four Grand Slam events and built the most yawning ranking points gap between her and her closest competitor in tennis history. We honor her, too, for a career of excellence, her stranglehold on the game’s No. 1 ranking and her 21 Grand Slam titles, a total that has her on the brink of Steffi Graf’s Open Era Slam record, which Williams will likely eclipse by mid-summer.
But we are honoring Serena Williams too for reasons that hang in the grayer, less comfortable ether, where issues such as race and femininity collide with the games. Race was used as a cudgel against Williams at Indian Wells in 2001, and she returned the blow with a 14-year self-exile from the tournament. She returned to Indian Wells in ’15, a conciliator seeking to raise the level of discourse about hard questions, the hardest ones, really. Williams, S.L. Price writes in his cover story in the Dec. 21 issue, “proffered an open hand. Far past the time that anyone expected it, she demonstrated a capacity for change—innovation if you will. She’s groping for answers and realizing she has much to learn.”
That’s some pretty solid reasoning, especially since SI recognizes sports do not exist in a vacuum, and off-the-field things must be taken into consideration. People still want it to be that horse though, as evidenced by these very real comments, the first of which is definitely written by someone who wants to have sex with that horse:
“Did your editors spend the last year under a rock? This horse is amazing. He is gentle, he is sweet, he is kind. Race horses aren’t known to be sweet, gentle and kind. American Pharoah allowed his fans to pet him, to feed him his beloved carrots, to hug and kiss him. I swear you can see straight to his soul through his eyes.”
One person called American Pharoah, a horse, their hero:
“American Pharoah Phans are not angry that Serena Williams Won!!T he focus is not on Serena Williams. American Pharoah Phans are angry that American Pharoah did not win! And that Sports Illustrated is laughing about it. American Pharoah Phans are angry at Sports Illustrated. The Phans feel duped and then SI posted the talking horse video further making a mockery out of our beloved hero, American Pharoah.”
And yet another claimed it was cowardice that awarded to title to a human and not a horse:
“You cowards didn’t have the balls to vote for a horse. The public pressure made you fold like sissies! Pharoah deserved it.”
There are a ton more worth reading over here, if SI’s ad-laden and slow-to-load site isn’t enough to stifle your desire to hear from horse lovers.