Serena and Venus Williams’ dad Richard was a serial cheat with up to 20 kids, his eldest daughter has told The Sun.
The tennis stars’ father – the focus of new biopic King Richard – has been accused of a string of affairs and has been dubbed “just a sperm donor” by Sabrina.
“I know there’s more siblings, I was told between fifteen and nineteen all over the place, from LA to Louisiana,” she told The Sun.
“My mom always argued with my dad about his affairs, he was a serial cheat. I remember that was always the main thing they’d talk about.
“He is a selfish man, lives only for himself, he just uses his kids to get what he needs. He’s not a dad, he was just a sperm donor. He had five kids, and left them to my mom to grow up in poverty, and never once helped.”
THREE TIMES MARRIED
Movie King Richard will show how a man with no background in the sport and very limited financial resources, guided his daughters to unprecedented success.
The biopic, which opened last Friday, reveals the racism, violence and hardship the Williams family had to overcome.
And it details just how “complicated” of a man three times married Richard is, according to Oscar nominated actor Will Smith.
For behind the headlines and grand slams there is a secret past that haunts Richard after he was accused of leaving his first wife to bring up their six children alone.
Sabrina told The Sun last year how when she was just eight-years-old he told her he was going out to buy her a bike before walking out of the door, never to return.
That left wife Betty – Sabrina’s mom – to raise their six children.
‘VERY COMPLICATED CHARACTER’
Reflecting on his role playing Richard, actor Will Smith said this week: “[He] is a very difficult and a very complicated character.
“This is a film about family, about faith. It’s a film about big dreams, you’d have to be a Grinch to walk out of this film and not be inspired.”
But Richard’s story does not begin with the success of Venus and Serena.
In fact, the story starts in Los Angeles, where Richard, now 79, was living with his then wife, Betty Johnson.
She had one child from another relationship and they had five more kids.
“I had two childhoods, the childhood from one to eight was fantastic,” Sabrina recalled.
“But once he left, within a year, we became very poor. There wasn’t always meals on the table. We went downhill.”
His desertion hit the family very hard.
Sabrina added: “In my teens, I was always thinking about suicide, I tried it once, it was always with me, and it was about my dad, I had mental health issues.”
Over the course of their childhood, Sabrina remembers Richard turning up just once at the doorstep when she was ten and then spoke to him again at college.
“Somehow I got hold of my dad through a relative and asked for $1,000 to pay some of the college bill at Hope Christian University,” she said.
“He said he’d only give me the money as a loan. That’s when I knew he was an a**hole.
“After college, I was done with my dad. He had never paid any child support and all he wanted to give me was a loan.”
Sabrina then began to hear about her much younger half-sisters Serena, 40, and Venus, 41, who were at that time making their mark as tennis juniors.
To save face with friends, she’d pretend they all got along.
Sabrina added: “I’d say I was still in contact with my dad, we went on vacations, but it was a lie. The unwritten law in our family: you don’t speak bad about the girls, who were then living in Compton.
“I didn’t meet Serena and Venus until I bumped into them by complete chance at Knott’s Berry Farm, a theme park in California, when they were teenagers.”
Richard’s first wife Betty died of breast cancer in 1998.
Sabrina said: “She needed some medication for the cancer, and it was too expensive for her to pay for it. I reached out to my dad, but I couldn’t get hold of him.
“He had no interest whether she was dead or alive. It was utterly mind-numbing that my dad couldn’t even come to my mom’s funeral.”
She would hear from her dad every now and then, but it was after having the first of two sons – Elijah, now 21, then Solomon two years later – that their relationship completely broke down.
“My siblings called me and said that dad is at Indian Wells with the girls playing in a tournament and he wants to speak to you.
“When he called, I said: ‘What do you need, dad?’ He said: ‘I love you.’
“No you don’t, what do you want? Don’t try this love thing.
“The girls are playing here, why don’t you come down, you’ll get the good seats, see the girls, then the reporters can take the pictures.
“It was typical him, he wanted to make it a PR opportunity, but I never wanted to meet the girls for publicity or money, only in private.”
While her sisters have risen to sporting fame, earning colossal fortunes, Sabrina insists she is not bitter and doesn’t want money from them.
However she says it does hurt that the siblings from the Williams’ sisters’ mother Oracene Price’s first marriage – Isha and Lyndrea – are often seen on the tennis circuit and showbiz parties, yet the Williams side are always absent.
Speaking in 2020 she said: “I think they’ve done fantastic, they have a lot of pressure from the black community to be role models.”
As for her father, Sabrina said: “I always made excuses for him.”
“I always believed in my heart that my dad would come back to get me. I think I was really disappointed my dad didn’t choose me,” she added.