Sloane Stephens says racist abuse of athletes has 'only gotten worse'

Racist behavior directed at athletes is getting worse, and even software designed to protect them from it has little impact, tennis player Sloane Stephens said Monday.

Stephens, speaking after her straight-sets victory over Karolina Pliskova in the French Open first round, said she has had to endure it her whole career.

"Yes, it's obviously been a problem my entire career," said Stephens, who is Black. "It has never stopped. If anything, it's only gotten worse."

The world's 30th-ranked player, Stephens did not go into specific details but said even software such as that available for players at the French Open, which is designed to block racist comments on social media, could not stop it.

"I did hear about the software. I have not used it," she said. "I have a lot of obviously key words banned on Instagram and all of these things, but that doesn't stop someone from just typing in an asterisk or typing it in a different way, which obviously software most of the time doesn't catch."

Professional athletes in all sports are regularly confronted with racist comments and behavior, with Real Madrid soccer player Vinicius Junior the most notable recent case.

Vinicius was on the receiving end of racist chants at Valencia's Mestalla stadium last week, and his complaints about Spain and LaLiga not doing enough to fight racism sparked a worldwide wave of support and national debate in Spain.

English soccer club Tottenham Hotspur was working this month with the Metropolitan Police to investigate an allegation of racial abuse toward South Korean striker Son Heung-Min.

Stephens said the racism had reached a worrying level.

"I mean, obviously when there is FBI investigations going on with what people are saying to you online, it's very serious," she said.

Stephens did not say whether she was referring to a specific case.

"Obviously it's been something that I have dealt with my whole career," she said. "I think that, like I said, it's only continued to get worse, and people online have the free rein to say and do whatever they want behind fake pages, which is obviously very troublesome.

"It's something I have had to deal with my whole career and something I will continue to deal with, I'm sure. That's that."