Director Jane Campion Apologizes After Backlash for ‘Racist’ Comment About Serena and Venus Williams

Separate photos of Jane Campion and Venus and Serena Williams on stage at the 2022 Critics Choice Awards. Credit: Courtesy of Getty Images for CCA

The Power of the Dog director Jane Campion has issued an apology after facing criticism for comments she made about Venus and Serena Williams during her acceptance speech at Sunday night’s Critics Choice Awards.

Campion, 67, was blasted across social media for what some called a “racist” remark as she picked up the award for best director.

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After praising Will Smith and his best actor win for his performance in tennis drama King Richard, Campion mentioned “the guys” who were all male directors nominated in her category while downplaying the achievements of sports icons Venus and Serena Williams.

“Venus and Serena, you’re such marvels. However, you don’t play against the guys, like I have to,” Campion said.

Venus had a cringed look on her face as Campion spoke, while Serena clapped and laughed.

Venus Williams reacts to Jane Campion's acceptance speech at the 27th annual Critics Choice Awards. Credit: Twitter
Venus Williams reacts to Jane Campion’s acceptance speech at the 27th annual Critics Choice Awards. Credit: Twitter

Following the director’s comments, writer Jamie Klinger expressed her anger on Twitter: “Am furious at Jane Campion. To do that to the Williams sisters and to do it in person to make them laugh at her awful joke – so they don’t seem laid back enough. It was sh–. It was racist. It was hideous and insulting.”

Actress Jodie Turner-Smith, who attended the awards ceremony, added 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.”

While author, attorney and women’s rights activist Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu tweeted: “The violence of Jane Campion words, the laughter, sniggering and & clapping in that room is so sick. If we served Jane a bit of what she dished out to Serena and Venus, her White woman tears will come take center stage – Belittling Black Excellence for entertainment.”

Campion, who is from New Zealand, later apologized in a statement obtained by IndieWire.

“I made a thoughtless comment equating what I do in the film world with all that Serena Williams and Venus Williams have achieved,” she said. “I did not intend to devalue these two legendary Black women and world-class athletes. 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.”

The director was seen embracing Williams in a photo taken at the Netflix after-party following the ceremony.

Watch the video below to see a clip of Campion’s acceptance speech: