Tennis icon Serena Williams is pregnant, so she’s sitting out the playing season. What is she doing instead? Hawking mattresses — Tempurpedic, to be exact. She also promotes Mission Cooling Towels — both on CNN during commercial breaks from 24 hour news.
Endorsement deals have always been what made athletes really wealthy, bringing in revenue even after their all-too-short playing days. Women and LGBT players have lagged in landing big and lucrative deals — Martina Navratilova was notably excluded from endorsements after she came out as a lesbian in 1981. Billie Jean King had been outed some months before, but Martina was the first really big player to be open about her sexual orientation on her own volition. She estimates that her brave step cost 10M or more in endorsements.
I’m glad Serena’s status as a tennis superstar is being recognized commercially. It just feels a little funny, even a little cheesy maybe, to see her sitting on a mattress urging people to buy rather than slamming backhands across the net.