Jane Campion apologizes to Venus and Serena Williams after Critics Choice Awards speech

The Power of the Dog” director Jane Campion issued an apology on Monday to Venus and Serena Williams following an online backlash Campion received for a comment she directed at the tennis legends during her Best Director acceptance speech.

“I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved. I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world-class athletes,” Campion said in a statement, according to Deadline. “The fact is the Williams sisters have, actually, squared off against men on the court (and off), and they have both raised the bar and opened doors for what is possible for women in this world. The last thing I would ever want to do is minimize remarkable women. I love Serena and Venus. Their accomplishments are titanic and inspiring. Serena and Venus, I apologize and completely celebrate you.”

During her speech, which received numerous laughs and cheers inside the Critics Choice Awards ballroom, Campion equated her victory against the all-male Best Director field of nominees with the Williams’ success on the tennis court. 

“Venus and Serena, what an honor to be in the room with you,” Campion told the Williams sisters from the stage. “I’ve taken up tennis. I truly have, and [“King Richard” star] Will Smith if you want to come over we can do lessons. I would truly love it. I actually had to stop playing because I’ve got tennis elbow.”

As the crowd laughed, Campion continued, “Serena and Venus, you are such marvels. However, you do not play against the guys, like I have to.” While numerous attendees, including Serena Williams, were shown applauding Campion, the comment was quickly denounced on Twitter. “Jane taking time out of her best director speech to tell two Black women that she is more oppressed than them is PEAK white feminism,” actress Jodie Turner-Smith wrote.

Despite the online acrimony, Campion and the Williams sisters seemed to get along fine in the wake of Campion’s remarks. At an afterparty following the Critics Choice Awards, Campion was photographed hugging Venus Williams.

Campion had her best weekend yet during awards season, winning at the Directors Guild Awards on Saturday night before sweeping through the Critics Choice Awards and BAFTA Awards. At both ceremonies, Campion won Best Director while “The Power of the Dog” received Best Picture from each group. Campion also won Best Adapted Screenplay at the Critics Choice Awards. She’s considered the favorite in all three categories at the 2022 Oscars as well.

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