UPDATE #2: After watching some of Serena's and Venus' press conference following their doubles victory, I am forced to stand by the tone of the original column below.
Serena appeared insincere to me, and seemed prompted by someone who reminded her she was in line to lose a series of endorsements and possibly face a greater fine and/or a suspension if she did not change her words and actions between what she said immediately following her and Venus' victory and what she was going to say in the post-match press conference. Simply put, I'm not buying it. The entire follow-through from after the Saturday evening incident has been poorly handled, and today was no exception.
That said, at least Serena offered public apologies. Yes, they may have come forth merely to try to retain lucrative advertisement deals and not of sincere contrition, but at least she offered them. That is encouraging.
UPDATE: One of the commenters below (Jeremy Hurd) has told me that Serena apologized in the post-match press conference following the doubles victory. Good. If true, that should go a long way to ending all this and I'm glad that Serena decided to take this route following the contest, whether by her own decision or because someone told her it was her best option. I will, however, leave my title as it is and keep the article below intact.
Serena Williams—with the help of sister Venus—today made a mockery of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the 2009 US Open and insulted fans around the world with their actions following a 6-2, 6-2 victory in the US Open's women's doubles final over Cara Black and Liezel Huber.
Outstanding female ambassadors of the sport, people such as Pam Shriver, Mary Carillo and Mary Jo Fernandez expressed dismay and disbelief that Serena would even be allowed to participate in today's match following her disgraceful actions against a lines-woman this past Saturday in her match against Kim Clijsters.
Serena's boorishness earned her a point penalty and cost her the match, and justly so.
After her epic meltdown on Saturday night, Serena held a surreal press conference where she talked about "moving on" from the ugly actions which only took place mere moments before she was talking.
Note to Serena: You can't move on from something which hasn't been processed. That's the reason you were at the press conference, to help people understand what happened and thus give them the ability to actually move on from what you chose to do in your semifinal match.
Then, in a statement released yesterday, Serena took another shot at the lines woman, still didn't apologize for what she had done and came across as just another spoiled athlete who does not understand the magnitude of her actions. It was an embarrassment.
Finally, after someone (almost certainly someone high up in the USTA) mercifully intervened and told Serena her first statement wasn't going to be nearly enough, Serena put out an amended statement which had the right tone, expressed contrition and was kind to the lines woman who was merely doing her job.
So, whether or not you felt that Serena Williams deserved to play in today's doubles final with Venus—and I do not feel she should have been allowed to participate—things had seemingly been made right between Serena, the lines woman, the USTA and tennis fans around the world.
And then Serena, and Venus, took a mountain of dynamite to the remaining or rebuilt goodwill in their post-match interview with ESPN's Patrick McEnroe.
Serena refused to publicly apologize for her actions on Saturday night. When Patrick McEnroe attempted to follow-up on the issue which has generated well over 1,000,000 YouTube hits in little over one day, the sparse crowd (many apparently Williams partisans) booed him.
Then Venus inappropriately interceded and condescendingly told McEnroe that the crowd's reaction meant that it was time to move on from discussing Serena's actions.
Here's what happened today: The USTA, in a very generous gesture, gave Serena a chance to compete that many feel Serena did not deserve. They helped her, in my opinion, craft a statement which actually approached some level of decency and decorum based upon Serena's actions on Saturday.
The USTA provided the proud champion, and her sister, the opportunity to leave the tournament on a high note and exhibit the class and dignity that eluded Serena on Saturday night.
Instead of utilizing that possibility to the fullest, and wholly accepting responsibility for her indefensible actions two days previous, Serena not only came off as petulant and unrepentant but she made herself (through her statement) look like a liar and she made the USTA look like fools for trusting her to do the right thing should the sisters win today's match.
Unfortunately, Venus Williams aided and abetted her sister by interfering with Patrick McEnroe's questioning. That is disappointing, but it's understandable. Serena is her little sister, after all.
However, in the wake of this utter mishandling of the moment, the USTA must seek the maximum punishment against Serena Williams, both financial and in the form of a suspension.
In hindsight, a mistake was made to allow Serena to participate in this doubles final. But it was made with good intentions and can be understood as a good step to try to resolve the tense aftermath of Saturday night.
Serena Williams, though, like Saturday night, forfeited her opportunity. She made her amended statement look like what it almost certainly was—a phony public relations sham. It appears the initial statement was much closer to what Serena actually believes.
As Michael Vick could tell Serena, there is no forgiveness without contrition. And there is no believability in supposed contrition unless it is presented in a uniform manner. That is, one cannot accept responsibility in a prepared statement yet shirk it in a public setting and expect to be taken seriously in her apology.
Serena, through today's post-match actions, has made the USTA look like enabling buffoons. She has made fans around the globe doubt her second statement's sincerity and has further tarnished the women's side of the 2009 US Open.
Further, she and Venus made ESPN and Patrick McEnroe look bad. That is not something you want to do with one of the USTA's primary broadcast partners.
Because of these facts, the USTA is urged to act quickly and decisively in the resolution of what punishment Serena Williams will face as a review is concluded following Serena's Saturday actions.
There has been some discussion that Williams could be fined as much as $350,000 and suspended for some period of time.
If the USTA cares about its own credibility and image, as well as the health of the tour's appeal throughout the world, it is urged to avail itself of the maximum permissible fines and/or suspension for Serena Williams.
You gave her a chance today. She blew it.
Now it's your turn to set the proper tone for the sport and its fans.
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