Pregnant star Serena Williams and gymnastics great Nadia Comaneci blasted tennis legend Ilie Nastase for making “racist”, “sexist” and “offensive” comments during the Fed Cup tie between Romania and Britain at the weekend.
Romanian Fed Cup captain Nastase has been suspended by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) over his foul-mouthed and abusive behaviour during the tie, from which he was ejected.
On Friday, he had made a controversial racial slur over Williams’s unborn baby while also reportedly propositioning the married and pregnant British captain Anne Keothavong.
“It disappoints me to know we live in a society where people like Ilie Nastase can make such racist comments towards myself and unborn child, and sexist comments against my peers,” said the 23-time Grand Slam winner.
Nastase was overheard by a journalist commenting on Williams’s unborn child — who will be mixed race as her fiance is white — on Friday, saying: “Let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?”
On Saturday, the 70-year-old former world number one and two-time Grand Slam winner was kicked out of the tie after swearing at the umpire, Keothavong and British number one player Johanna Konta– calling the latter two “fucking bitches”.
“You may shoot me with your words… you may try to kill me with your hatefulness, but still like air, I rise,” continued the 35-year-old Williams, a four-time Olympic gold medallist.
“I humbly thank the ITF for any consideration given to all the facts in this case. They will have my full support.”
Nastase was also blasted by compatriot Comaneci.
“Ilie has been my friend for many years, but I can not condone or defend his recent ugly and very offensive remarks,” the 55-year-old five-time Olympic gold medallist wrote on Twitter.
Nastase and Comaneci are Romania’s two greatest sporting icons.
Comaneci was reacting to criticism she received from earlier comments she made at the European Gymnastics Championships, held in Cluj, Romania at the weekend.
Various press reported her as having said Nastase “says things that he doesn’t really mean”, adding that “everybody in Romania loves Ilie because he is Ilie”.
Despite being kicked out of the Fed Cup tie, Nastase had blatantly ignored the ban on Sunday and walked into the VIP area at the venue in Constanta, before being asked to leave by the Romanian Tennis Federation president.
His bizarre behaviour did not stop there, though, as Keothavong revealed he had sent her flowers on Sunday in a peace-making gesture.