Serena Williams is once again the target of a race-based controversy and this time a civil lawsuit claims a luxury shoe company discriminated against her.
Whitney Wilburn filed a racial discrimination lawsuit Thursday, May 18, against Gianvito Rossi that alleges managers at the Manhattan store refused to give a discount to Williams, a 23-time Grand Slam winner.
“For instance, when the world famous athlete Serena Williams, via her staff, asked for a discount on her extensive purchases, Gianvito managers responded with racially disparaging comments about Ms. Williams which made it clear that the company did not want African-American women to wear its shoes,” the documents obtained by the New York Post said.
Supervisors allegedly “referred to Ms. Williams as ‘disgusting’ but when a Vogue magazine contact requested the previously denied discount, they offered only a fraction of the discount that white celebrities typically receive,” court papers state.
Wilburn, a 46-year-old Black woman, also alleges her boss, Grace Mazzilli, who is white, acted “hostile to Wilburn based upon her race and age.”
Wilburn claims Mazzilli “threw numerous elaborate dinner parties and social events for all boutiques managed by white employees … while never once holding an event for [her] Madison Avenue store.”
The plaintiff says she was terminated in January 2016 “without warning or formal evaluation” only to be replaced by a “much younger white manager.” Wilburn had been working at Gianvito Rossi for 18 months.
Williams, Rossi and the store’s namesake designer have not commented on the matter, while a boutique employee told the New York Post Mazzilli was unable to comment since she was traveling in Italy.