Will Smith, Richard Williams TheGrio
Will Smith, Richard Williams (Getty)

Sports fans and film buffs are giving the side-eye to news that Will Smith is set to play the father of tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams.

As TheGrio previously reported, Smith’s Overbrook Entertainment has partnered with Star Thrower Entertainment to produce King Richard, a film based on Richard Williams’ life and the challenges he faced raising and coaching two gifted athletes. Despite having no experience with tennis, Williams drafted a 78-page plan for his daughters when they were barely in their teens, transforming them into global superstars.

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Williams may have “overcame tremendous hardship, skepticism and his own troubled past to raise two of the game’s greatest players,” as Deadline noted in its exclusive report, but critics don’t think Smith should be the actor to take audiences on that journey.

Many Twitter users believe the casting is yet another example of Hollywood “colorism at work.”

Colorism matters..love will Smith but there are other black actors for this role,” sports writer Clarence Hill Jr. tweeted.

Journalist and activist George M Johnson added: Just like Chadwick shouldn’t have played Thurgood Marshall, Will should not play Richard…Skin color matters in how folk were treated and navigated spaces. Is Alexandra Shipp playing Venus?”

One Twitter user reacted to news of Smith playing Williams by asking: “Why is there a movie called King Richard but not a movie called Queen Serena or Queen Venus?”

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Williams began training his daughters on the courts in Compton, Calif., and his 78-page plan served as a guide for what he envisioned would be their professional careers. And it certainly paid off.

“There was no place in the world that was rougher than Compton,” Williams said in an interview with CNN in 2015. “The ghetto will make you rough, it’ll make you tough, it’ll make you strong. And so that’s why I went to Compton with them.”