I don’t care if Serena Williams is a woman. I don’t care if she is black. This isn’t about racism or sexism, it’s about character — and Williams lacks the latter.
I know my thoughts fly in the face of the majority, but when Williams erupted on Saturday she was disrespectful to her opponent, the chair judge and the millions of fans watching the women’s U.S. Open finals.
I rarely watch a tennis, but when Williams snapped, breaking her racket, my head snapped to attention in curiosity. At first blush I thought, I’d seen this behavior before. The truth is, I had. Williams has a history of outbursts, especially in the U.S. Open (see 2004, 2009 and 2011).
During the second set on Saturday, Williams was warned after her coach Patrick Mouratoglou was “coaching,” which is a violation. Williams, fully aware of her surroundings, proceeded to break her tennis racket and begin spitting fire at chair umpire Carlos Ramos, demanding a apology and calling him a “thief” and a “liar.”
Williams said insisted she wasn’t being coached saying, “Unbelievable, every time I play here I have problems. I did not get coaching, I don’t cheat. You need to make an announcement. I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her. You owe me an apology. For you to attack my character is something that is wrong.”
After the match, in an interview with ESPN, Mouratoglou confessed he was coaching, saying:
“I’m honest. I was coaching. I mean, I don’t think she was looking at me … There is loads of coaching in every match. 100% of the coaches in 100% of the matches, so we have to suffer this hypocrite thing.”
You can’t be “honest” and confess to violate the game’s rules; it’s one or the other. Mouratoglou broke the rules. Before I move on, save your thought that everyone does it. Maybe true, but it doesn’t make it right. Cheating is cheating.
At one point during her tantrum Williams shouted: “You know my character … For you to attack my character is something that is wrong.”
Yes, we do, and therein lies the greater problem.
This is the same Serena Williams who accused chair umpire Eva Asderaki of being “a hater” and “ugly inside” during the 2011 U.S. Open. Two years earlier, in 2009, after a point penalty, Williams berated the line judge Kim Clijsters telling her, “If I could, I would take this —-ing ball and shove it down your —-ing throat.”
Character is defined over time; it’s a collection of behavioral qualities — for better or worse. Abraham Lincoln described it best: “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”