Throat-gate: Closure.


I’ve missed the unfolding of this drama over the past few days because of … umm. *Sniffles* But I must say, I’m a little bit disappointed with the way this whole event has been portrayed and dealt with by both the media and Serena herself. 

 

First, there was the Patrick McEnroe ‘drilling’ during the doubles award ceremony, a potentially awkward situation rescued by the ever diplomatic Venus. 

 

 

The media also overreacted to the incident, with many depicting Serena as violent, calling for her to be suspended.

The most extreme version of this was on the free Melbournian metro tabloid, mX, the day after the incident.

Basically, it’s most ridiculous piece of shit ever:

 

A bullying expert said this morning Williams was a tigress who meant every word of her threat to shove a tennis ball down the throat of a lineswoman and kill her during the match.

“She became a sabre-toothed tiger”, Centacare Melbourne senior counsellor Rosalie Pattenden said. 

“At that very moment, it (the threat) was real. Her rage consumed her and she was attracking; luckily she pulled it back.”

Pattenden said a relationship breakup may have prompted Williams’ withering attack.

“There must be some other thing behind it … maybe something personal has happend to for her with a relationship breakdown, a whole heap of things have built up to the point where she lost control where she wouldn’t usually.”

 

Did anyone out there SERIOUSLY believe that Serena had meant to hurt the lineswoman in any way? And at which point exactly did Serena say she was going to “kill” the lineswoman? At no point. But reading the mainstream media coverage of this, you would’ve never known it. 

This type of representation seems to be playing right into the sort of racial stigma that this article in an “ethnic media” publication was referring too:

 

Was Serena intense? Yes. It was an intense moment in the match. After all, this is the U.S. Open’s women’s semifinals. Under an extreme amount of pressure, maybe it got to her. It can happen to the best of us. After all, a person can only take so much and it’s not as if the field of tennis rolled out the red carpet for her and her sister Venus. From day one, the Williams sisters have had to fight for everything they’ve accomplished in tennis, including the continuing racism that keeps the Williams sisters from the Palm Springs Indian Wells Tournament and allows for commentators to credit the sisters’ “strength” and “athleticism” for their victories while their white counterparts win because they “play smart” and “strategize.” It’s also the reason that my hometown paper, the Los Angeles Times, can feel confident in reporting this latest news while using a photo of Serena Williams from the back, seemingly towering over the lineswoman, and giving license to every other news outlet to have a field day.

In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that Serena Williams wrote on her blog about an incident at the German Open where she lost to Dinara Safina. She wrote that she could hear the entire players’ lounge “all happy and joyous” because she had finally lost:

“It was funny when I lost I was in the locker room and I could hear the entire players lounge really loud like really happy and joyous. Like down goes the champ! Someone beat her!!! It was like a big hoopla….”

What ensued Saturday was nothing more than a few angry curse words that lead Serena to have to defend herself against unmade threats toward the lineswoman who was obviously suffering from a typical case of afraid-of-the-black-girl syndrome. How else do you explain the lineswoman’s alleged accusations that Serena was threatening to kill her?

Williams could be heard saying to the lineswoman, “I didn’t say I would kill you. Are you serious?”

Yeah, are you serious?

Most black women can relate to what happened to Serena. We get mad like everyone else. The only difference is that for some reason, when white women get angry, they’re not perceived to be as threatening as we are. Maybe it’s the expression on our face. Maybe it’s the seriousness with which we address issues when we are upset. Maybe it’s the tone of our voice. You know that “Don’t f— with me today” tone that can stop a person dead in their tracks and scares the s–t out of most white people.

Source: New America Media

 

It’s an interesting take on the whole affair.

I don’t necessarily agree with everything that’s being said, but something about the portrayal of this incident definitely tapped into racial stereotypes.

Why? I’ve had to delete the video of the incident from my youtube channel within 24 hours of putting it up because of an outbreak of racists comments, both towards Serena and towards the lineswoman.

And then there was this interview, when the interviewer said the following to Serena:

“When you hear the language that you learned and the effect on that judge, I mean –  she looked like a scared school child, pointing at you to the Chair Umpire, literally frightened of you.”

 

 

Are you serious? Since when the lines judge ever look scared? Expressionless and resolute? Yes. Frightened of Serena? No.

The lines judge went over to the Chair Umpire because the Umpire wanted to know what had been said. Not because she was running for her safety. 

I’m not in anyway defending the impropriety of Serena’s actions, but PUH-LEASE, we’ve seen worse from men. The same interviewer posed a question: does gender play a role in this? 

Serena couldn’t answer, and you may well disagree. But I see it as both a gendered and ethnicised discourse. 

On the other hand, Serena herself only made matters worse.

Instead of showing real contrition, she decided to firstly issue a regrettable statement, before buckling to the pressure and formally apologizing.It doesn’t help either that she turned up at the VMA awards on the day of the final, almost at the precise moment of Kim’s victory.

Instead of doing damage control, Serena did damage. 

But like Venus said, let’s move on. Slap her a fine, she deserves it. But don’t overreact and suspend her, and don’t depict her as a violent woman preying on her victim.

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11 responses to “Throat-gate: Closure.”

  1. Tashi says :

    I hate that people are pulling out the race card. It’s not about that. It’s about Serena behaving inappropriately. The media is reporting things that are false, yes, but I do think it’s a big deal. It’s not like Serena just screamed at the woman and then backed off. She threatened her, real or not it was still a threat, and then came back a second time. I’ve seen players lose control but never like that. Slapping a $10000 fine on Serena is stupid. That’s pocket change for her.

    None of us would ever expect that if we had an outburst like that in our work places all we’d get is a fine.

    • dootsiez says :

      Hmm the race card is always played sensitively and controversially, but I do think it played a factor. I was so disgusted with some of the comments that my video of the incident got on youtube that I deleted the whole thing. Some of the ways in which the event has been described was almost … thuggish.

      As for the threat, Serena lost it for sure. It was VERY ugly. But I do believe she was just cussing without any actual malice intent. I have seen a lot worse from McEnroe and Connors.

      And none of us work in a workplace that’s as competitive, fierce and rowdy either. I’m willing to accept that Serena acted out of line, but it’s competition. Some allowances have to be made for that.

      • Tashi says :

        Of course it’s sport and allowances have to be made but the line has to be drawn some where. Cursing and screaming into the air or straight at the lines person, fine. *Threatening* the lines person, not fine. Obviously she wasn’t going to act on the threat but to not punish her accordingly is letting everyone else think that that’s fine. And I don’t think that in our sport we should let people get away with that. And just because it’s sport we shouldn’t cut people slack for behaving crazy. It’s not okay any where else.

        Who honestly thinks that Serena would’ve been defaulted from the match if the incident hadn’t been on match point? They would’ve let her continue to play and then give her that weak ass fine and moved on.

        As far as comparing this to other incidents from what I’ve seen people rant at umpires and break stuff but I’ve never seen anyone threaten another with physical harm. But it might’ve totally happened and I just don’t know about it.😀

      • dootsiez says :

        ^ My problem isn’t so much with the fact that Serena was defaulted (or received a point penalty) as the media portray and public outcry over it.

        Serena got what she deserved, but the reaction to it has been absurd and so far from my initial perceptions of it. We don’t like to touch on gender and racial issues as a society, but color me surprised if those two didn’t come into play in popular perception and media coverage.

        As for other people threatening umpires and linesmen, two words: Daniel Koellerer.

  2. Liz says :

    I agree that the response from the public has been extreme. I think that Serena has made enemies over the years due to her inability to give anyone else an ounce of credit. And in this case, she initially said that she wasn’t going to apologize because she had put the incident behind her.

    But you have to acknowledge the roles of race and gender in the responses to the controversy. If a male player had acted the same way, people may have tsked tsked, but there wouldn’t have been the intense outrage.

  3. Ann says :

    I don’t think the comparison to “our work places” holds up. How many of us have work that involves making it or breaking it in front of 22,000 people? Not that the pressure of the situation excuses the behavior – it doesn’t. But this is not some buttoned-up business office. This work is fueled by adrenaline and testosterone – high emotion is *required*.

    My husband makes the comparison to baseball – someone does this in baseball, they get ejected from the game. Serena effectively did get ejected from the match. Great – done! If they want to slap the $455K fine on her on top of that to make their point, ok; that’s no chump change and would certainly set an example.

    And honestly, ejection from a baseball game usually requires much more swearing, gesticulating, and foot-stomping than this, if not outright bodily harm. Given that Serena defaulted the match because of this outburst, suspension from next year’s Open seems like an overreaction, at best.

  4. TopSpin says :

    Oh dear. I was just waiting for the appearance of the race card.

    I’m not completely sure about the male-female comparisons – if Lleyton Hewitt had threatened to ram a ball down an officials throat, there’d be a backlash too. Rightfully so.

    Would Serena REALLY have made her swallow a tennis ball? No.

    Did the official feel threatened? Probably. Not because she believed it would really happen. But most people would, if threats were screamed at them with racquets being waved around their head.

    But you can just bet your bottom dollar the race issue is ever willing to rear its ugly head where Serena’s concerned; she’s done herself NO favours but she unfairly attracts this kind of attention

    • dootsiez says :

      For the male v female comparisons, I don’t remember the match at all, but how many ‘penalty points” was Jimmy Connors punished with in that infamous 1991 US Open match?

      If Lleyton Hewitt had threatened an official, there would’ve been a backlash. Do I think it would be as severe? Hmmm…no.

      The race card had to be played because when it comes to Serena, it almost always is relevant.

      Maybe I’m just feeling more sensitive about it right now because I’ve had the unpleasant experience of being confronted with a blast of it on youtube, and indeed from a few fan forums too. And reading a few reports of the incident in the media, I definitely see some racial stereotypes coming through.

      It’s ugly, but then again, we don’t live in an ideal world.

  5. kim says :

    I liked the take in this article:

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2009/writers/ann_killion/09/15/serena/index.html

    I personally love Serena’s tennis. I like seeing her play, not because she is a picture of graciousness or can keep her emotions under control at all times, but because she plays tennis that’s worth watching, well most of the time anyway. This is entertainment. I do not look for a role model for my children among the best athletes in tennis or any other sports or in any celebrity figures. So I can’t say I was surprised at what she did/said. She simply “lost it” – not defensible, but not out of the ordinary behavior in the heat of the moment.

    However, the over-reaction by the pundits and public alike to this situation is telling and tiresome. Suddenly everybody seems to feel that he or she is the guardian of the civility and sportsmanship. Also more than a few are venting their hatred/dislike of the person Serena under the pretext of commenting on the situation. She lost the match and got fined. Time to move on.

    BTW, I enjoy this blog very much – great job, dootsiez, and thank you for the countless times you made me laugh and cheer up. I usually don’t have much to say that’s interesting, but I like watching Fed, Venus and Serena, Marat Safin play tennis. Yes, Safin… a lost cause.

    • dootsiez says :

      Oh I love that article Kim, thanks for posting it!

      I think it’s spot on and says what I wanted to say: was Serena’s actions blameworthy? sure! But did it deserve the outcry? Absolutely not.

      The Williamses have never been popular, not in the way that some of the popular champions have been loved n the past. It’s as if everyone’s chosen this incident as a vent.

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