D Kevin McNeirEditor's ColumnColumnistsOpinion

EDITOR’S COLUMN: Serena Williams Fails to Maintain Grace, Class of a Phenomenal Black Woman

Perennial woman’s tennis champion Serena Williams recently embraced and celebrated the exciting world of motherhood. Soon after giving birth, the world held its breath hoping to see those first photos of her with her new bundle of joy.

But based on her actions and outbursts that occurred during the highly-anticipated match for bragging rights, being soundly defeated, 6-2, 6-4, by her opponent Naomi Osaka, 20, it looks like Sister Serena still has a lot to learn about being a mother. Osaka, a rising star who played almost flawlessly in the U.S. Open woman’s final, has become the first tennis player born in Japan to win a Grand Slam title and she should have been allowed to savor the moment. But Serena, lacking the kind of class that I have come to associate with Black women as well as with true champions, showed that she needs to review the lessons of Dr. Spock — if not Dr. Phil, Iyanla Vanzant — even my boisterous gal-pal Wendy Williams.

On the real, Serena did not present herself like a woman with class. Further, she took away some of the hard-earned joy that should have been afforded Naomi Osaka in her upset victory. Even the crowd seemed to be dissatisfied with the outcome of the match and Williams’ inability to set a new career record.

Williams could have logged a record-tying 24th major single titles — her first title since giving birth to her daughter last year. But she ran into three unforeseen hurdles: Carlos Ramos, the match’s chair umpire, who issued three penalties against Williams, all of them in the second set after Osaka had already established her dominance, an opponent who was at the top of her game and Serena’s own over-the-top pride and feeling of privilege.

Still, given the focus of Osaka, coupled with speed, power and the ability to remain focused throughout, Serena probably could not have done enough to overcome the young bi-racial woman with Haitian roots who grew up idolizing Williams.

Williams allowed her anger to get the best of her and as the match went on that anger only intensified. Boos and hoots from the crowd further derailed the kind of performance and focus that have already secured Serena’s legacy as one of the best tennis players in the world and in the history of the game — male or female. Afterwards, she said she felt like she’d been treated unfairly — that sexism had come into play. In her failed efforts to justify her unruly behavior, she pointed to male players who have routinely exhibited similar actions but without being sacked with penalties. It’s hard to refute her claim, considering the antics of men like Bobby Riggs, Greg Rusedski, Jimmy Connors or the king of on-court temper tantrums, John McEnroe, but as she pointed out, they’re men.

Serena, Serena, Serena, you know the deal. Men are prone to take full advantage of those so-called rights conferred upon them because of their anatomical distinctions in this heavily-male-dominated world and then behave like true idiots when it suits their needs or mood. But just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean we should want or feel like we should be allowed to jump on the bandwagon.

Call me a chauvinist, which I am not by any stretch of the imagination, but I prefer to see women conducting themselves with civility and class — the way the women who raised me interacted in the world when I was learning my way as a child. Women like my mother, grandmothers, my mother-in-law, my aunts, my older sister, my elementary school teachers, my babysitters and those saints in white gloves and white hats who I fondly remember from church.

It’s Naomi’s season, for now anyway, to enjoy the warmth of the sun, Serena. As for you, you need to take a refresher course on motherhood. After all, after you’ve hung up your racket, you’ll have one job from which you cannot retire. And with two adult children of my own and two young grandsons, so far, I’ve learned in quick fashion that this job comes with lifelong requirements.

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D. Kevin McNeir – Senior Editor

Award-winning journalist and 21-year Black Press veteran, book editor, voice-over specialist and college instructor (Philosophy, Religion, Journalism). Before joining us, he led the Miami Times to recognition as NNPA Publication of the Year.

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