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article imageOp-Ed: On Serena Williams and how sportswomen can’t act like this

By Brendan McLeod     Sep 14, 2011 in Sports
I first caught highlights of Serena Williams’ now infamous tirade against US Open umpire Eva Asderaki while I was at the gym.
Maybe it was the absurdity of watching Williams sling insults over closed captioning - her mouth moving at a heavy clip while the teleprompter spelled out: “You’re ugly…(five second pause) inside…” – but I didn’t think much of it. Another unsophisticated spoiled sports star. So what? We see it all the time.
I was surprised to find the incident trending on twitter hours later. I was even more surprised by the invective headed Williams’ way: classless, tasteless, disgusting, abhorrent, revolting, etcetera – words that only got worse when she was levied a paltry $2000 fine, a penalty akin to someone who makes $50,000 a year being hit up for 8 bucks. More a slap on the pinkie finger than the wrist.
The reactions to this have not been above board. First, and most patently shameful, was Fox and Friends host Gretchen Carlson’s comment that the outburst had ‘racial undertones’. Right. More like Carlson has bigoted undertones. It was a terrible thing to say, but she’s a Fox anchor, and spending an entire article ripping her apart would be like bullying that kid in class a few bricks short of a load who’s always picking their nose in public.
Equally annoying to me was the Globe and Mail article by Stephen Brunt, which dismantles Carlson’s fallacies only to loft this bomb: “…Williams, who declined to apologize on Sunday, has invited the criticism” (my emphasis). The argument seeming to be: it’s not Williams’ fault people are racist, but since they are, she bears a heavier responsibility to behave. The fault, again, comes back to Williams. (The article is entitled ‘No excuse for Serena’).
I hate rushing to the defence of a spoiled sports star – and with Williams’ ability to hurl invectives, she obviously doesn’t need the help – but the double standard here is insane. Male athletes go off on the umpires/referees all the time. ALL. THE. TIME. You can’t watch a football game without seeing a linebacker jump up and down (literally, jump up and down - like a child being tossed from the zoo) at some of the calls. Soccer? Please. The referees might as well be officiating wrestling. Then there was Kobe Bryant’s dropping of the homophobic F-bomb on a referee last year. Yes, he received a much loftier fine than Williams’ (still not enough), but was suspended a total of zero games, and heard much less about it than Williams’ has of her outburst. And that was for disparaging not just one official but an entire human demographic.
Some might argue, ‘Well, it’s tennis. People don’t act that way in tennis. They wear white!’ Um. Go to Youtube. Search: John McEnroe tantrums. (You don’t need to type the whole thing, youtube predicts it for you as soon as you get past ‘John’). His eruptions make Williams look like she should be hanging out in heaven strumming a harp. The overall lasting effect of all these vile nasty words on McEnroe’s popularity? None. He’s the most recognized tennis television commentator in the world. If anything, he’s celebrated for his ‘temper’.
So why the backlash against Williams? She’s a woman. Plain and simple. People are uncomfortable with/unused to/unable to believe a woman venting like that. Williams calls an umpire ‘a loser’ and people act like the sky is falling; male athletes diss officials twice as hard every day – every single solitary day – and it raises nary an eyebrow. Now, we can talk about the reasons, causes, effects, and solutions for this, but anyone claiming to be particularly pissed with Serena for her lack of class, or simply because she’s a sport star, is Fox News-esque in their illusions.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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