Ivanka Trump, who considers herself as an advocate for women and mothers, has been tweeting a lot these days about the world-famous athlete and new mother Serena Williams. Her recent posts, along with the fact that the tennis player has known Donald Trump for years, may have caused some to speculate about whether Ivanka Trump and Serena Williams know each other.
Ivanka has actually tweeted gushing praise of Williams many times over the years, but this month she really stepped it up. Last week she rushed to Williams' defense after the French Open organizers decided not to seed her — in other words, give her a preliminary ranking in their bracket — even though she was ranked first by the Women's Tennis Association before going on maternity leave. And on Wednesday, Ivanka retweeted a post from Williams in support of mothers who are suffering through difficult pregnancy recoveries.
"A total winner...on + off the court!" she wrote.
But there seems to be no public evidence that Ivanka is friends with Williams. It's more likely that she's just a big fan. That she's a fan, at least, is obvious. She's called Williams "amazing" and "a formidable athlete (best ever!)" In July of 2016, she tweeted a quote from Williams with the hashtag #wisewords.
Williams lives in Palm Beach, Florida, the home of Trump's famous Mar-a-Lago hotel, which has led some to call him her "neighbor." And she knows Trump, as she described to reporters in June of 2016.
"I have met [... Trump] several times, as I live in Palm Beach and everyone in Palm Beach kind of know each other," she said, according to Tennis Now. She added, "I don't get involved in politics. I don't vote. It goes back to my religion, and I'm not involved at all in that political scene."
Williams is a Jehovah's Witness and therefore believes that the Bible compels her to remain apolitical, as JW.org explains.
We do not lobby, vote for political parties or candidates, run for government office, or participate in any action to change governments. [...] Although we do not take part in politics, we respect the authority of the governments under which we live. [...] We also respect the rights of others to make their own decisions in political matters."
When asked about Trump again a couple of months later, in August of 2016, Williams reiterated that she doesn't involve herself in politics, but also added: "I think it is important we should pass the message of love, as opposed to hate."
Although Williams calls herself politically neutral, she doesn't hesitate to talk about how racism and sexism have influenced her career and rebuke prejudiced comments made about her. In honor of Black Women’s Equal Pay Day last July, Williams wrote an essay about the discrimination she's faced.
"Growing up, I was told I couldn’t accomplish my dreams because I was a woman and, more so, because of the color of my skin," she wrote. "I have been treated unfairly, I’ve been disrespected by my male colleagues and — in the most painful times — I’ve been the subject of racist remarks on and off the tennis court."
She even included a fairly political call to action, writing: "Changing the status quo will take dedicated action, legislation, employer recognition, and courage for employees to demand more."
As an important and symbolic figure in the racial justice movement, it might feel like Williams and Ivanka would be an odd pair of friends. The first daughter is often referred to as complicit in the actions of her father, which are often called racist. While both women consider themselves to be advocates for women, they are typically looked at by the public in very different ways.
Although they probably aren't friends, it's possible that the first daughter has met Williams. In April of 2015 (two months before her father announced his candidacy), Ivanka tweeted that Williams had attended the opening of the Trump Tennis Center in Washington, D.C. to "celebrate" the occasion, and she later posted a photo of Williams with her father.