Now that we have our first black President and we are allegedly living in a post-racial nation, everything we see or hear is filtered through the specter of race. Since we are inclined to believe that we are all equal, we should also be inclined to believe our behavior is equally subject to criticism. That is especially true for public figures. Yet I’m not so sure. I wonder how race will impact the discussion surrounding this incident at the U.S. Open.
The incident in question is this classless and disgusting display of poor sportsmanship by Serena Williams. The elements of race loom large as a backdrop to her behavior. Williams, an African- American, is being outplayed by her European rival, Kim Clijsters. When she is called for a foul late in the match she loses it and explodes. While holding her racket in a clearly threatening manner, she directs her rage and profanity at the lines person who made the call. The lines person is Asian.
Immediately after, the white officials convene and she is assessed a point (code violation) for the second time and loses the match. Serena is loudly booed as she leaves the stadium in disgrace.
What I find interesting is that Serena chose to threaten this Asian lines person. Why? Bad calls at critical times are a part of sports ever since the first referee picked up a whistle. That is NEVER an excuse to verbally or physically threaten an official. She is supposed to be a pro.
I am curious how the greater sports media will cover this story. Will there be any discussion of race or will this just be reported on in a benign run of the mill athlete behaving badly way.
Her tirade against this lines person went way beyond being upset about a bad call. Just maybe it shows an ugly side of Serena Williams. A side that sees Asians as people who can be threatened and cursed with impunity. Given the historic antagonism between Asian-Americans and African-Americans in this country, you have to wonder.
The officials did the right thing. Hopefully there will be further sanctions. We can wonder as to the cause of Serena’s rage. Is it because she was being outplayed and it’s a product of frustration? Or was it a bad call at a critical point that pushed her last button? Or was it something else altogether? Only Serena knows.She owes everyone involved an apology.
Instead of being a role model, she chose to be the ugly American. Now in a post racial age I hope she gets all the criticism she deserves.