13 September 2011

Serena Williams penalized at the 2011 US Open tennis finals

The story of Serena Williams has dominated tennis news since Sept 11 when she railed against the umpire she suspected of having unfairly penalized her during the women's final at the US Open which was held over the last two weeks in New York. Serena let out a yelp, at the very moment her opponent was preparing to hit the ball back to Serena's side of the court. The umpire deemed the noise to be a 'hinderance' and gave the point to her opponent, Australian Samantha Stosur, at which point Serena let loose with a diatribe of accusations and insults against the umpire. Sam Stosur went on to win the match, and was already one set up at the time of the incident. Serena was fined $2000 for her outburst. Her earnings for participating in the US Open were $1.4 million.

Discussions were held at more than one newspaper site, with many viewpoints and sensitive feelings exposed. At this particular Huffington Post comment site (see below), I was surprised to see support for Serena from black people who placed blame on white people for Serena's outburst - a result of longstanding racist discrimination against her, one claimed. A heated discussion developed from such comments which I, among others, engaged in, but with no resolution. Try as I might, I could not get my point across about the concept of reverse racism. To me, Serena's comments reflected an antagonism towards the umpire that at the very least bordered on racial difference, discrimination, or intolerance.

It seemed that no matter how well off a black person became, or how successful, any perceived slight or insensitive remark could be interpreted as racist. Once again, in this sense, racism reverts simply to the colour of the skin and no other basis at all. On a wider level, racism is about denying opportunity to people on the basis of their cultural or national background or religion (or however you want to word it), but one can hardly say that Serena is still experiencing this level of racism, having reached the highest levels of international tennis tournaments. Yet here she is, letting loose on the umpire, in a similar vein as in 2009, against a linesperson.

Another aspect of the discussion was her behaviour seemingly taken out of context. Alone, with no explanation, her behaviour was described as a child's, yet Serena is a poweful woman, not just physically but in the world, having support from her family, friends, tennis support team, blacks in America no doubt, and fans of tennis eveywhere. So when a person holding such power oversteps the limit of decency and good behaviour, isn't that different than when someone with little or no power oversteps it. Are we expecting too much to want the people we admire and respect for their skills and talent to also engage in good behaviour? Do such people ever get punished to the same extent that powerless people do, or are the powerless punished more because they have no contribution to society to draw upon to excuse their bad behaviour?

So far, on this brief report alone, nearly 1800 comments have been submitted by readers. Many of them are very unhappy with her behaviour. Many others remain loyal to her. But at least people have had the opportunity, and the freedom, to give their views on this controversial incident.

Serena Williams Loses Cool With Chair Umpire In U.S. Open Final (VIDEO)
Huffington Post
Sept 11, 2011