Friday, September 18, 2009

Michelle Obama Helps Lead Healthcare Reform Fight

First lady Michelle Obama listens to remarks during a forum at the White House on Friday

Hyungwon Kang/Reuters
Michelle Obama discussing women and health care at the White House on Friday


Michelle Obama: Health Care Overhaul ‘Next Step’ for Women

September 18, 2009
New York Times

First Lady Michelle Obama said Friday that overhauling the nation’s health care system was of critical importance to women and part of “the next step” in the long quest to assure full opportunities and equality for women.

“Women aren’t just disproportionately affected by this issue because of the roles that we play in families,” Mrs. Obama said. “Women are affected because of the jobs that we do in this economy.”

In a morning speech at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the grounds of the White House, the first lady took one of her biggest steps yet into the health care discussions under way in Congress. She urged women to pay attention and get involved in the debate, saying it should be of particular concern to them and their families.

“We all know that women are more likely to work part-time or to work in small companies or businesses that don’t provide any insurance at all,” Mrs. Obama said. “Women are affected because, as we heard, in many states, insurance companies can still discriminate because of gender. And this is still shocking to me.”

In some states across the country, she said, insurance companies can still discriminate because of gender. She recalled instances where women had been denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition – “like having a C-section, or having had a baby.”

“These are the kind of facts that still wake me up at night,” she said.

In her speech, Mrs. Obama also told the story of one of their daughters, Sasha, who would not stop crying when she was 4 months old. A doctor’s visit revealed that she might have meningitis, which she ultimately did not, but the illness produced a scare.

“It is that moment in our lives that flashes through my head every time we engage in this health-insurance conversation. It’s that moment in my life because I think about, what on earth would we had done if we had not had insurance?” Mrs. Obama said. “What would have happened to that beautiful little girl, if we hadn’t been able to get to a pediatrician, who was able to get us to an emergency room?”

In the first eight months of the Obama presidency, the first lady has only occasionally weighed in on policy discussions, a strategy intended to keep her away from controversial topics. But the speech on Friday, delivered to leaders of several women’s groups, signaled the beginnings of an increasing role for her in the health care debate.

“She’s obviously a very popular figure in America,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary. “If she can help out, we’re happy to have her.”


Very important support and advocacy for healthcare reform by Michelle Obama...


Michelle Obama could be secret weapon in health care reform


First lady Michelle Obama delivers remarks on health care reform Friday
Obama recalls personal health stories about her daughter and father
Analysts say her personal touch on the thorny issue could help her husband

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- She stood by her husband throughout the contentious 2008 presidential campaign and during heated health care reform debates during his presidency.

First lady Michelle Obama listens to remarks during a health care forum at the White House on Friday.

Now, as the debate is reaching a fever pitch, first lady Michelle Obama is weighing in on the issue by focusing on how health care can affect families.

"What she's doing is putting a personal and human face on the issue ... there's nothing more crucial," said Washington Post columnist Sally Quinn. "Everybody gets sick, and everybody has someone in the family that gets sick."

"I think if you can humanize it and personalize it, it suddenly brings it home to people -- especially those who are screaming and yelling about the government taking over," Quinn said.

On Friday, the first lady, a former hospital administrator, spoke about the issue to a crowd at the White House, highlighting her own family's experience with health care.

In one touching moment, Obama recalled when daughter Sasha exhibited signs of potentially deadly meningitis when she was 4 months old.

"We didn't know what, but he [the doctor] told us she could have meningitis, so we were terrified. He said get to the emergency room right away," she said. "Fortunately, things worked out."

"But it is that moment in our lives that flashes through my head every time we engage in this health insurance conversation. It's that moment in my life, because I think about what on earth would we have done if we had not had insurance."

Mrs. Obama not only faced the issue as a mother, but also as a daughter.

"My father had multiple sclerosis. He contracted it in his 20s. ... He was able to get up and go to work every day, even though it got harder for him as he got sicker and more debilitated. And I find myself thinking what would we had done as a family on the south side of Chicago if my father hadn't had insurance."

Quinn says that personal story is critical in the health care debate -- something that has been lacking in the president's message so far, which has often been deemed by pundits as too policy-oriented and too surgical in nature.

"What she's doing is she's humanizing the issue. And I think that has been missing in their [White House] campaign," she says. "He's been so focused on the details and the strategy and the money that the individual problems and issues have seemed to have gotten lost in the fray."

Gloria Borger, a CNN senior political analyst, agreed.

"I think she's always been a great asset to him," she said. "She can help in this health care debate by not getting involved in the minutiae of the bills, but essentially emphasizing the reason we need health care reform. And that's what she will stick to."

Michelle Obama was a lightning rod -- both good and bad -- throughout her husband's presidential campaign. Now, in her role as first lady, she has garnered greater support among American voters from both parties.

A national survey by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press in April found that the first lady's positive ratings have increased since her husband took office. The poll found that 76 percent of Americans had a favorable opinion of her, which is up from 68 percent in January.

"Much of the change has come among Republicans, especially Republican women," the organization noted. "About two-thirds of Republican women [67 percent] have a favorable impression of Michelle Obama, a gain of 21 points since January."

But a first lady's involvement in health care reform is nothing new.

In the early '90s, first lady Hillary Clinton spearheaded the Clinton administration's push for reform, holding meetings, testifying before congressional committees and, in general, taking charge of the issue.

"Hillary Clinton was the architect of health care reform," Borger said.

As for whether Michelle Obama is mirroring Clinton's role, the answer from both Borger and Quinn is absolutely not.

"I don't see any parallels at all. ... The Clintons came in, and they had run on the platform of buy one, get one free, a co-presidency and all of that. And she took over this huge thing herself. Bill wasn't doing it," Quinn said.

She said the president, not Michelle Obama, was the was the one who pushed health care reform in his early domestic agenda.

"He promised in his campaign, and then he's the one that did it. This is not Michelle's plan. She hasn't been doing the town meetings and the national press conferences," she added.

Borger said that the first lady is playing a completely different role.

"It's a much more supportive role, and it's a role out of the policy arena, but more in the arena of just why we ought to think we need reform."

All About Michelle Obama • Health Care Policy

The Racist Double Standard in American Sports and its Heavily Biased Treatment of the Black Athlete, Part III

Double Standard For Serena Williams

by Dave Zirin
The Nation
September 18, 2009

A top-ranked tennis player in a moment of rage cursed out a judge and shocked the world, headlining every sports and news program from ESPN to MSNBC. Meanwhile, another champion tennis player hurled expletives at a judge and the media barely yawned. While the tennis world still reels from Serena Williams's f-bomb-laced tirade against a line judge on September 12, the "classy" Roger Federer pulled a similar tantrum two days later and didn't get half as much coverage.

In US Open finals on September 14, Federer lost in five sets to the previously unheralded Juan Martin del Potro. In a tense third set, after a challenge by del Potro, Federer became infuriated with the line judge. After the judge told Federer to settle down, he said, "Don't tell me to be quiet, OK? I don't give a [expletive] what [del Potro] said, OK?" The 6-foot-6 power-serving Argentinean frustrated Federer throughout, and the favored player lost his famous cool. But after the match, there were no press conference apologies from Federer. And there were no calls for him to be suspended, fined or sanctioned. This despite the fact that his profanity was directed toward del Potro, a serious breach in tennis etiquette.

Williams without question lost control as well. After being called for a critical foot fault in her semifinal match against Kim Clijsters, she said to the line judge, "If I could, I would take this [expletive] ball and shove it down your [expletive] throat." The foot fault was a terrible call, and it cost Williams the match. After her rant, she was given a point penalty, and the match was effectively over as Clijsters looked on in a state of bewilderment. It's worth mentioning that the call by the line judge was the equivalent of calling a technical foul in Game 7 of the NBA finals with the score tied in the closing seconds.

The behavior of Federer and Williams in these matches are examples of bad sportsmanship at its worst. But the double standard is enough to make you want to swallow your tennis ball. When Williams lost it on the court, she later apologized and admitted idolizing tennis's infamous enfant terrible John McEnroe. McEnroe, now an announcer on CBS, responded, "I guess she idolized me for the wrong reasons, apparently. I feel like I'm on the hot seat now.... I can't defend the indefensible." His co-anchor, Mary Carillo, was even harsher, saying, Williams "could have won the Oscar" for her calm performance at the press conference after the match.

On September 13 on ESPN2, Carillo called for Williams's suspension, saying, "If you care about the integrity of your sport, you throw somebody out of the game for a while." Later, she called Williams's $10,500 fine a "joke" and an "embarrassment." By contrast, when Federer cursed, CBS broadcaster Dick Enberg drew a distinction that it was not "venomous."

The question is not whether Williams was right or Federer was wrong. They were both wrong. The question is whether hypocrisy is acceptable. The double standard is obvious if we perform the gender flip test: if Williams were a man, would her behavior have been met with similar outrage?

To ask the question is to answer it: from McEnroe to Jimmy Connors, male players who blow their tops are part of tennis lore. McEnroe has repeatedly made calls for current pros to not be "robots" and have the "passion" he displayed. But in the country-club white-skirt-and-ponytail world of womens tennis, different behavior is expected. Williams, to put it mildly, doesn't wear white. She is the person who introduced the "cat suit" to the tennis court. Her physical dominance is heretical to demure expectations that still permeate the sport.

When you couple gender expectations with racial ones, the inconsistency is no longer just obvious, it's glaring. If Williams were a petite blonde, like 17-year-old American Melanie Oudin, and was called for a match-ending foot-fault-cum-disqualification, the US Open crowd would have turned Arthur Ashe Stadium into Attica. But Williams was booed throughout the match against Clijsters; and when her outburst began, the booing intensified. The next day when she played doubles with her sister Venus, Serena Williams was repeatedly heckled. Her "Americanness" at the US Open was in open question in the way a white player's cultural heritage never would be. Ironically, her most infamous match against Clijsters, as all tennis fans know, was at Indian Wells in 2001 where she was subjected to repeated racial taunts and slurs. She has boycotted Indian Wells ever since and has said she will continue to do so, even though she has been threatened with fines and sanctions.

The Williams sisters' ascendance from Compton to queens of the tennis world has been well documented and earned them millions of dollars plus fans around the world. But it has also gained them tons of detractors, from the stands to the blogosphere. This doesn't excuse Serena Williams's conduct, and it's not an attempt to "play the race card"; it's just a fact. When it comes to conquering race and gender in tennis, we are nowhere near match point.

Dave Zirin is The Nation's sports editor. He is the author of Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket) and A People's History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). His writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sports and The Progressive. He is the host of Sirius/XM's Edge of Sports Radio.

Contact him at edgeofsports at

Serena Williams is A Human Being--Not a Robot (or Scapegoat)

Serena Williams tries to move on from uproar over outburst


Tennis star's obscenity-laced tirade at the U.S. Open stays in the spotlight
She's fielding questions about it as she promotes new book
Williams says she was "in the moment" and doesn't remember all that was said
Her young fans can now see "she's human, she made a bad decision," she says

Editor's note: Watch the full interview with Serena Williams on "Your $$$$$" Saturday at 1 p.m. ET and Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on CNN.

By Christine Romans and Jennifer Icklan
Wed September 16, 2009

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Serena Williams just wants to move on. But the controversy around her obscenity-laced tirade at a line judge at the U.S. Open continues.

Williams, 27, said she was "in the moment" and doesn't really remember her now-famous outburst at a line judge who had called a foot fault. It was a 12-second verbal attack that has played over and over for three days.

"It was a really tough point in the match and it was really close and got a really tough call that wasn't the correct call, and, you know, things got a little heated and I had a conversation with the line judge that didn't go so well," Williams said.

Williams, ranked No. 2 in the world by the Women's Tennis Association, said she does not recall moments of Saturday's incident but believes she apologized for her actions promptly and completely.

"I couldn't apologize any sooner, and then also I learned from my mistakes ... I was talking to [former Giants defensive end] Michael Strahan earlier today and he said how, when he's out there you're so intense. Obviously, when you get a bad call, it's like 'What's going on?' So when you're in the moment, you are just there. You don't really quite remember exactly what's going on," Williams said.

Williams found herself explaining her outburst while promoting her recently published memoir, "On the Line," in which she details growing up the youngest of five sisters, her struggles on the court and off, and her positive messages of inspiration, especially to her younger fans.

"Those kids probably just need to know it's great to be a competitor, how passionate someone is, and just making the right decisions at the right time -- realizing that, hey, everyone falls, 'Wow, she's human, she made a bad decision, a bad choice.' "

Williams added, "I am not a robot. I have a heart and I bleed."

In the aftermath of Saturday's match, tournament officials fined Williams $10,000 for unsportsmanlike conduct and $500 for smashing a racket during the same event. So far, no suspensions have been served, but the United States Tennis Association has said that it has launched an investigation into the incident.

All About Serena Williams • U.S. Open - Tennis • Tennis

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Keith Olbermann Denounces Racist Hysteria fueling Anti-Obama Rhetoric in the United States


Keith Olbermann--one of the finest and most important political journalists of our time--once again demonstrates what genuine intellectual and moral integrity are all about in this stinging and typically eloquent indictment of the national racist hysteria at the root of most of the brazen anti-Obama rhetoric and organized opposition sponsored and led by the maniacal white supremacist and far rightwing junta that now openly runs the Republican Party.

As usual, thanks Keith for your outstanding work...


Venus and Serena Williams Win Their Third Doubles Grand Slam Title of 2009 at US Open

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Racist Double Standard in American Sports and the Heavily Biased Treatment of the Black Athlete--Part II


Finally!!--The whole truth and nothing but...and from a whitemale sports journalist yet (shocking!)--Do miracles never cease?


Double Fault: Serena's Loss of Serenity Reveals Both Race and Gender Bias
Michael Kimmel
Posted: September 14, 2009

Can anyone still recall the hazy afterglow following the presidential election -- that orgy of premature self-congratulation about suddenly becoming a "post racial" society?

That prematurity was on full display the other night in the women's semifinal match at the U.S. Open between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters. Clijsters's thrilling return to the women's circuit was overshadowed by an intemperate outburst by Williams, who menacingly gestured to the line judge, who had just called a foot fault on a second serve which brought the game to match point. Williams exploded in a profanity laced-tirade. You don't have to be a lip reader to see she yelled that she was going to shove that bright yellow tennis ball up the line judge's butt.

Okay, let's acknowledge that this was not Serena's greatest moment, that she lost her temper -- it was match point in the semi-finals, after all -- and became both unhinged and enraged. And Serena is one big, strong woman. And a big strong black woman.

Those two last points, though, seem crucial. Serena's outburst -- and the rule-based, draconian penalty that cost her the match -- were both racial and gendered. Let me be clear: I am not saying that the call was overtly, intentionally, racist or sexist. But the context for both the line judge's reaction and the chair umpire's call depended on Serena being a strong black woman.

Ask yourself this: would the line judge have felt so threatened had she been yelled at by perky, pretty little Melanie Oudin, all 5 foot 6 of her bouncy teenage self?

How about a white man? White men can express anger and outrage -- indeed, they're supposed to. It's one of the few emotional men are allowed to express -- and we express it often, and often without penalty. And sometimes we go even further. Don't get mad, the saying goes, get even.

Hey, don't take my word for it. See for yourself. One of the pleasures of the rainouts and rain delays that marred the end of the tournament schedule was that CBS and ESPN rebroadcast some "classic" matches from earlier eras, matches in which the ever-bratty Jimmy Connors' rants and the once-bratty now elder statesman and superb TV commentator John McEnroe's outbursts were greeted with whopping rallying cries and often supportive crowd reactions. Check it out here and here.

Line judges didn't typically feel threatened by Marat Safin -- and he's 6 foot 4! (Safin broke 48 tennis racquets in 1999 alone.)

And watch Jimmy Connors in his famous 4th round match at the 1991 Open, when he twice explodes at the chair umpire (who seemed more bemused than afraid).

Note that Connors was not assessed any penalty, and went on to win the match. The crowd went wild.

Yes, Serena lost her temper, yelled and cursed at the line judge. Bad sportsmanship. Very bad. But the line judge said she felt her life had been threatened. (A charge Serena instantly and vehemently denied.)

Let's face it: it's different when black people get angry. Even black men. Being a 58-year-old Harvard professor with a cane didn't protect Henry Louis Gates when he lost his cool. And Joe Wilson sure felt entitled to express his outrage at that uppity black guy -- except that uppity black guy lecturing him happened to be the President. Being the Commander in Chief of the world's most powerful military didn't protect President Obama either.

Nor did being arguably the best female tennis player in the world protect Serena. She was a furious black woman with a weapon. Serena was neither ladylike nor did she "act white" and keep her cool.

The fans booed Serena, as they surely would have if President Obama had ever taken the bait and replied to relentless race-baiting in anything but an even-tempered, even-cadenced, tone. But make no mistake: those same fans found John McEnroe's antics "cute" and Jimmy Connors' constant tirades energizing, and plenty of other white male players just too tightly wound.

Memo to Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilifred Tsonga and James Blake: do not ever lose your temper. Ever. Memo to Venus Williams: double ditto.

America's post-racialist glow only lasts as long as you stay more serene than Serena.

Editor's Note: Monfils, Tsonga, Blake, and of course Venus are all prominent black tennis players

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Racist Double Standard in American Sports and its Heavily Biased Treatment of the Black Athlete


On saturday evening September 13, 2009 the extraordinary Serena Williams one of the greatest players in the history of tennis, and legendary winner of 11 Grand Slam titles was playing in the US Open semifinals in New York against Kim Clijsters of Belgium. At a crucial point in the contest with the entire match hanging in the balance, Serena served the ball and a foot fault was called against Serena by the linesperson. This egregious and inaccurate call literally put Williams within one point of losing the match thus damaging her opportunity to get to the final to defend her US Open crown which Williams had won in 2008.

At that point a highly incensed Serena yelled at the linesperson for putting her in immediate jeopardy of losing the match and allegedly used some profanity while doing so. In response the linesperson ran toward the match umpire to complain about verbal abuse from Williams.

This caused the tournament referee to directly intercede to enforce the ruling of an automatic code violation for arguing in an "unsportsmanlike" manner with the linesperson. This resulted in Serena LOSING the match by default since she was penalized by losing the last point of the match without her being able to serve again or have her opponent Clijsters return her serve. Because Williams had already been issued an earlier warning in the first set for cracking her racquet in frustration after losing the first set, Serena thereby lost the match after using up her last point oppoprtunity by arguing the really bad foot fault call with the linesperson.

At that point Serena left the court ceding the victory to Clijsters by in effect defaulting the match. After Serena returned to the media room to give her obligatory postmatch press conference a media furor ensued with all kinds of wild, unfounded charges being made against Serena for her conduct against the linesperson and her character was brutally attacked and questioned by much of the nearly all white national press corps (see comments by a number of these sports reporters in posted articles below).

What follows is an excellent thoroughgoing critique and investigative analysis by journalist Sameer Damre of exactly what happened and why within the larger context of Williams's career in American tennis confronting the often relentless racism and bitter condescension --not to mention the pervasive and openly spiteful envy and jealousy against Serena and her equally legendary older sister Venus. In the virtually lily white, wealthy, and privileged tennis world the Williams Sisters have always been perceived and treated as a threat to the established legacy of white supremacy which has often marred the sport historically. That heinous legacy has been very much in evidence during this episode and the blatant attacks on Serena by white media sources have played and continue to play a major role in sustaining and extending that ugly tradition--as it has and does for many African American athletes who are routinely treated in an egregious manner that screams out the clear double standard that persists in the media and fan treatment of black athletes.


The Serena Williams Controversy and the Elephant in the Room…Race

by Sameer Damre
September 13, 2009

In the aftermath of Serena Williams' unceremonious exit from the US Open in the semifinals against Kim Clijsters last night, the major media including CBS and ESPN have stayed away from the issue of race. However, based on many of the comments being posted on various websites regarding Serena’s reaction to a questionable foot fault call when the outcome of the match was still in doubt, I would say race is very much an underlying issue in analyzing the media reaction to the unfortunate ending that occurred. For those who say it is too easy to inject race into the topic…well…it is also just as easy to avoid the topic especially when it does not involve something obvious such as the use of a slur. Thus, the Grand Slam committee and International Tennis Federation should not be narrow-minded when they review the matter to determine what penalties Serena will have to suffer for her actions last night.

First, the rise of Serena and Venus to professional stardom was not the result of fancy, expensive tennis academy instruction that many tennis players in the United States have enjoyed. Instead, their game was developed on the public courts in Compton, California with their father Richard as their instructor. This fact in itself has ruffled the feathers of the tennis establishment to the point that they have been critical of Richard Williams rationalizing in some twisted way that he somehow impeded the tennis development of his daughters. The reality is that private tennis academies are big business and it could not have made the tennis establishment happy that two middle-class African-American girls from Compton could win a combined 18 major singles titles without spending an exorbitant amount of money on private instruction in some fancy South Florida location.

During the 1997 US Open semifinals, Romanian Irin Spirlea intentionally bumped Venus Williams during a changeover. There was no outrage from the media regarding Spirlea’s behavior nor was she warned or given a point penalty for her misconduct. Was Spirlea’s action motivated by race? Richard Williams felt so and called Spirlea “a big, ugly, tall, white turkey”.

During a tournament in 2001 in Indian Wells, California, Serena was the target of booing and jeering by almost the entire (and largely American) crowd during the finals against ironically Kim Clijsters.

During the 2004 US Open quarterfinals, Serena was the victim of many bad calls during the final set against Jennifer Capriati…calls which were confirmed to be wrong by television replay. Serena maintained her composure despite being severely handicapped by the poor calls and eventually losing the match as a result. It was the poor officiating in that match which led to the implementation of replay in tennis for line calls on the balls.

Basically, Serena lost her composure yesterday and cannot be excused for that. I think she knows she embarrassed herself and was wrong for everything she said to the lines person. She should have spoken to the umpire of the match and expressed her concern about the call. Nobody will argue with that fact including her own mother. However, in the heat of the moment she probably felt the same way last night as she did against Capriati. She was very much in the match down 5-6 in the second set and 15-30 in her service game. The match was not over as being implied by many in the media who minimized the impact of the highly questionable foot fault call by the lines person. At that point, it became 15-40 and double match point so Serena had good reason to be upset if the foot fault call was indeed wrong. Such a call should only be made if it was obvious in light of the fact that it cannot be reviewed by television replay though that will probably change after last night.

All of CBS commentators were critical of Serena including Dick Enberg who said “That's not what champions do” in reference to Serena. Yet, many champions have engaged in poor sportsmanship on multiple occasions including celebrated Americans like John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. Another observation is that the US Open crowd at Arthur Ashe stadium was cheering for the Belgian Clijsters over one of the greatest female players ever and an American in Serena. She has won 11 major titles including winning four consecutive which was dubbed the Serena Slam. Did the US Open crowd ever cheer against Billie Jean King and Chris Evert? In fact, the US Open crowd cheered for Clijsters over Venus in the fourth round. Venus is also one of the greatest American female players having won seven major titles herself.

The feel good story of Clijsters coming back after motherhood does not explain cheering for her over two of the greatest female tennis players ever who happen to be American. The same US Open crowd was cheering on Melanie Oudin against Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark and would have cheered on Oudin if she had played Clijsters. So, I do not buy the feel good story explanation as to why a largely American audience would cheer against their own champions who happen to be African-American when they have not done so in the case of white players like Evert, King, McEnroe, Connors, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras. Is this because Serena and Venus do not embody the All-American girl stereotype of being blond and white? There apparently was at least one sports talk show host in the Baltimore-Washington D.C. area who said that Melanie Oudin was the only American left in the US Open when in fact Serena was still playing.

The lines person should never have been the story last night. It was also disappointing to see that the lines person who made the controversial foot fault call did not seem upset about the fact that she had become the story and that a great match ended the way it did. In fact, it was almost as though she enjoyed seeing the point penalty assessed against Serena which thus ended the match. The lines person in question is an Asian-American. Relations between Asian-Americans and African-Americans have historically been tense in the Los Angeles area where Serena is from.

This tension became a national story in the aftermath of the 1992 Los Angeles riots. It is quite possible that Serena’s verbal statements to the line person were at least in part a result of an attitude she may have developed as a result of her childhood exposure to that tension. Furthermore, one must not simply allow the lines person to get away as a completely innocent person. The foot fault call itself must be replayed at the best angle available to determine if the call was correct and if it was not was the error egregious? Also, I would want to know what personal feelings the lines person has regarding race and whether that played any role in her foot fault call. I seriously doubt you will see her working another US Open because neither the USTA nor television can afford to have the US Open be marred the way it was. The sport is about the players…not the lines person. Just imagine if the incident had occurred earlier in the match.

Finally, for those in the US Open audience who were cheering against the Williams’ sisters, you got your wish of a final without either present. I doubt that the USTA and its sponsors will be thrilled with the television ratings of the all-European final because Clijsters-Wozniacki does not quite carry the same appeal as Federer-Nadal.

September 13, 2009
Clijsters Wins on Penalty Assessed on Williams
New York Times

Serena Williams became unhinged in a shocking display of vitriol and profanity toward a line judge at the most inopportune time Saturday night — right before match point for Kim Clijsters in the semifinals of the United States Open.

In a matter of confusing minutes, Williams turned what had been a scintillating women’s match into an ugly and improbable spectacle that gave Clijsters, an unseeded wild-card entry making a joyful return to Grand Slam tennis, a 6-4, 7-5 victory she could not even celebrate.

Clijsters, a 26-year-old from Belgium who is the mother of a toddler, had frustrated and dominated Williams all night. After Clijsters won the first set, Williams slammed her racket to the court twice, mangling the frame in disgust. She walked to her chair, whacking the net with her racket on the way, and earned a warning for racket abuse.

Clijsters stayed composed. She had a 6-5 lead in the second set, and Williams was serving to send the set into a tiebreaker. At 15-30, a lineswoman called Williams for a foot fault on her second serve. Williams argued angrily, then walked back to the baseline. But she could not let it rest. She approached the judge and appeared to threaten her, shaking a ball in her face, according to reporters courtside and television replays.

The chair umpire, Louise Engzell of Sweden, asked the lineswoman to approach and explain what happened. Engzell then assessed Williams a point penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, with Brian Earley, the tournament referee, in agreement.

But Williams had no point to give — the penalty ended the match, and the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd, which was only about half-full after two days of rain delays, was stunned. So, too, was Clijsters, who had not even played in the Open since she won it in 2005. Suddenly, and strangely, she found herself in the final once again.

Clijsters will play ninth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who romped over Belgium’s Yanina Wickmayer, 6-3, 6-3, in the other women’s semifinal, which was played simultaneously on Louis Armstrong Stadium before barely 300 fans.

But in an ignominious night for women’s tennis and the Open, few might remember the undercard.

“It’s just unfortunate that a battle like that has to end like that,” Clijsters said.

Until the fateful point that decided the match, the action was worthy of a final, rewarding the fans after rain had ravaged the schedule.

After the match, Williams was eerily composed. She did not apologize for her actions, nor would she disclose what she had said to the lineswoman, whose name was not released by the United States Tennis Association.

“I don’t think it’s necessary for me to speak about that,” Williams said. “I’ve let it go.”

The line judge appeared to comment to the chair umpire on court that she felt threatened, although what she said was not audible. In a hastily called conference on the court with the chair umpire and Earley, Williams responded in an incredulous voice. “I didn’t say I would kill you,” she said, in audio that was picked up by CBS’s on-court microphone. “Are you serious? I didn’t say that.”

Later, Williams said: “I’ve never been in a fight in my whole life, so I don’t know why she would have felt threatened. No, I didn’t threaten. I don’t remember any more, to be honest. I was in the moment.”

Reporters who were courtside said that Williams approached the line judge and they heard Williams shout profanity at her. Holding a ball, Williams said to the lineswoman that “you don’t know me,” appearing to inject it with profanity. Then Williams added that the linewoman was lucky that Williams was not, according to The Miami Herald, “shoving this ball down your throat.”

In a statement after the match, Earley explained the penalty procedure and why the match ended without the chair umpire declaring Clijsters the winner. He said that at 15-30: “Williams was called for a foot fault on her second serve, making the score 15-40. She then yelled something at the line umpire, who reported it to the chair umpire. Based on the report, Miss Williams was assessed a code violation, point penalty, for unsportsmanlike conduct.”

Earley said in an interview after the match that “it just happened that point penalty was match point.”

When Williams went over to Clijsters’s side of the court to shake her hand, she said it was Clijsters who told her, “I’m sorry.” Williams said, “I was like, ‘this isn’t your fault.’ ”

Clijsters said she did not “even want to be involved” in the incident, standing far back behind the baseline. “I was just so surprised and shocked all of a sudden to see Serena walking over to me,” she said later. “To get a point penalty at the time, it’s unfortunate. But there are rules.”

This was the second time in their careers that Williams and Clijsters had been involved in a controversial match. Williams met Clijsters in the 2001 final of a tournament in Indian Wells, Calif. The crowd booed Williams, apparently in response to what had transpired in the semifinal; Venus Williams had defaulted because of an injury right before the sisters were to go on court. Williams has said that she heard some fans yell racial epithets.

Williams won that match in three sets. But she and her sister Venus have not played in Indian Wells since.

Saturday night, Clijsters did not realize the connection until she was unwinding after the match. “You kind of wonder what is it with all our matches,” she said. “Then again, it’s a completely different situation.”

Clijsters came into the match with a 1-7 record against Williams, who was seeking her third Grand Slam championship this season. Clijsters was playing in only her 13th match since returning to the WTA Tour in Cincinnati three weeks ago after retiring two and a half years ago.

“You try to bring your best tennis, but no, you don’t expect things to be going this well this soon,” Clijsters said.

“The normal feelings of winning the match weren’t quite there,” Clijsters said. “But after it had sunk in a little bit, it becomes easier to understand and kind of not celebrate, but at least have a little bit of joy after a match like that.”

Williams’s camp was not in an understanding mood after the match. Her father and coach, Richard, was talking to the N.B.A. star Kevin Garnett outside the stadium when reporters approached him. “Just get out of my face,” he said.

Oracene Price, Williams’s mother and her coach, called the ending “startling” and defended her youngest daughter by saying, “No, I think she should speak up for what is right.”

As Williams explained to reporters after the match: “I used to have a real temper — and I’ve gotten a lot better. I know you don’t believe me, I used to be worse.”

She exhibited that temper earlier this year, in fact, when she had a similar kind of outburst in the third round of the French Open against María José Martínez Sánchez.

Williams accused Martínez Sánchez of cheating and threatened on the court that she would make her pay for it in the locker room, talk that was picked up on television.

Williams was serving in the first set and was down a break point. She had run down a drop shot and happened to hit Martínez Sánchez, racing to the net, with a backhand.

Tennis rules dictate that when a player is hit by the ball, that player loses the point. But the umpire Emmanuel Joseph did not see it, and Martínez Sánchez did not volunteer that she was hit. She was awarded the game.

“I’m going to get you in the locker room for that; you don’t know me,” Williams said.

She later said of Martínez Sánchez to Joseph, “She better not come to the net again.”

Williams won that match, but was ousted in the quarterfinals. Coming into this U.S. Open, ranked No. 2 in the world, Williams was seeking her 12th Grand Slam title.

Instead, Clijsters, a former No. 1 who has just the 2005 Open title on her Grand Slam résumé, will be try to become the first mother to win a title since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won the 1980 Wimbledon championship.

Improbable? Perhaps. But no one expected the scene on this night, either.

David Waldstein and Christopher Clarey contributed reporting.

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company /la-sp-serena-williams14-2009sep14,0,5727925.story


Serena Williams is fined $10,500 for tirade at U.S. Open

There will also be further investigation of the incident, and more penalties are possible, according to a statement from the International Tennis Federation.

By Diane Pucin
September 14, 2009
Reporting from New York

Serena Williams will be fined a total of $10,500 for behavior deemed "unsportsmanlike conduct" and for racket abuse after her aggressive, obscenity-filled reaction to a critical foot fault called during her 6-4, 7-5 U.S. Open semifinal loss to Kim Clijsters on Saturday night.

There will also be further investigation of the incident, according to a statement from the International Tennis Federation that was released by the Open. The statement said, "additional penalties can be imposed."

Williams earned $350,000 for her singles semifinal finish and can earn as much as $205,000 if she and her sister Venus win the women's doubles final today.

After a lineswoman called a foot fault on a second serve, which gave Williams a double fault and put her a point away from the loss, Williams approached the lineswoman, shook a tennis ball in the direction of the woman's face and reportedly said, "If I could, I would take this . . . ball and . . . shove it down your throat."

Because Williams had already received a warning after breaking her racket at the end of the first set, her actions in confronting the lineswoman resulted in another code violation and a penalty point. That point was match point and gave Clijsters the win.

Through a public relations agency, Williams released a statement Sunday that said, "Last night everyone could truly see the passion I have for my job. Now that I have had time to gain my composure I can see that while I don't agree with the unfair line call, in the heat of battle I let my passion and emotion get the better of me and as a result handled the situation poorly."

ESPN2 and CBS tennis analyst Mary Carillo called the fine "a joke," and suggested Williams shouldn't be allowed to play the doubles final. "She should be out. How can you let her play? That woman was threatened and humiliated."

Pam Shriver, who is working for ESPN, said that one outcome of the incident might be a system in which foot-fault calls could be challenged and electronically reviewed.

"I think, after this, officials will find the need to address reviewing of foot faults," Shriver said. "I could see where, just like after the Serena-[Jennifer] Capriati match [in the 2004 Open] . . . ushered in the age of electronic line calls, this might usher in the age of the challenge of foot-fault calls."

Copyright © 2009, The Los Angeles Times

Bizarre ending to Williams' title defense at Open

September 13, 2009

NEW YORK (AP)-Serena Williams walked toward the line judge, screaming, cursing and shaking a ball in the official's direction, threatening to "shove it down" her throat.

On match point in the U.S. Open semifinals Saturday night, defending champion Williams was penalized a point for unsportsmanlike conduct-a bizarre, ugly finish that gave a 6-4, 7-5 upset victory to unseeded, unranked Kim Clijsters.

The match featured plenty of powerful groundstrokes and lengthy exchanges. No one will remember a single shot that was struck, though, because of the unusual, dramatic way it ended.

With Williams serving at 5-6, 15-30 in the second set, she faulted on her first serve. On the second serve, a line judge called a foot fault, making it a double-fault-a call rarely, if ever, seen at that stage of any match, let alone the semifinals of a Grand Slam tournament.

That made the score 15-40, putting Clijsters one point from victory.

Instead of stepping to the baseline to serve again, Williams went over and shouted and cursed at the line judge, pointing at her and thrusting the ball toward her.

"If I could, I would take this … ball and shove it down your … throat," Williams said.

She continued yelling at the line judge, and went back over, shaking her racket in the official's direction.

Asked in her postmatch news conference what she said to the line judge, Williams wouldn't say, replying, "What did I say? You didn't hear?"

"I've never been in a fight in my whole life, so I don't know why she would have felt threatened," Williams said with a smile.

The line judge went over to the chair umpire, and tournament referee Brian Earley joined in the conversation. With the crowd booing-making part of the dialogue inaudible-Williams then went over and said to the line judge: "Sorry, but there are a lot of people who've said way worse." Then the line judge said something to the chair umpire, and Williams responded, "I didn't say I would kill you. Are you serious? I didn't say that." The line judge replied by shaking her head and saying, "Yes."

Williams already had been give a code violation warning when she broke her racket after losing the first set. So the chair umpire now awarded a penalty point to Clijsters, ending the match.

"She was called for a foot fault, and a point later, she said something to a line umpire, and it was reported to the chair, and that resulted in a point penalty," Earley explained. "And it just happened that point penalty was match point. It was a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct."

When the ruling was announced, Williams walked around the net to the other end of the court to shake hands with a stunned Clijsters, who did not appear to understand what had happened.

"I used to have a real temper, and I've gotten a lot better," Williams said later. "So I know you don't believe me, but I used to be worse. Yes, yes, indeed."

Lost in the theatrics was Clijsters' significant accomplishment: In only her third tournament back after 2 1/2 years in retirement, the 26-year-old Belgian became the first mother to reach a Grand Slam final since Evonne Goolagong Cawley won Wimbledon 1980.

AP - Sep 12, 11:47 pm EDT

"The normal feelings of winning a match weren't quite there," Clijsters said. "But I think afterwards, when everything kind of sunk in a little bit and got explained to me about what happened, yeah, you kind of have to put it all in place, and then it becomes a little bit easier to understand and to kind of not celebrate, but at least have a little bit of joy after a match like that."

Clijsters hadn't competed at the U.S. Open since winning the 2005 championship. Now she will play for her second career major title Sunday against No. 9 Caroline Wozniacki of Denmark, who beat Yanina Wickmayer of Belgium 6-3, 6-3 in the other rain-delayed women's semifinal.

Williams came into the day having won three of the past four Grand Slam titles, and 30 of her previous 31 matches at major tournaments.

She was playing fantastically at the U.S. Open, not losing a set before Saturday and having lost her serve a total of three times through five matches.

But Clijsters-who beat Williams' older sister, No. 3 Venus, in the fourth round-was superb, matching strokes and strides with as strong and swift a woman as the game has to offer.

Williams, meanwhile, kept making mistakes, and two backhand errors plus a double-fault contributed to a break at love that put Clijsters ahead 4-2.

When Williams netted backhands on consecutive points at 5-4, Clijsters had broken her for the second time and taken the opening set. The last backhand was the 14th unforced error made by Williams to that point-twice as many as Clijsters-and the American bounced her racket, caught it, then cracked it against the blue court, mangling the frame.

When Williams walked to the changeover, she clanged it against the net post and was given a warning for racket abuse by the chair umpire.

That would prove pivotal about an hour later, at match's end.

"I mean, the timing is unfortunate, you know," Clijsters said. "To get a point penalty at the time, it's unfortunate. But there are rules, and you know, like I said, it's just unfortunate that it has to happen on a match point."

Source: Serena's outburst to warrant investigation
By Martin Rogers, Yahoo! Sports
September 13, 2009

NEW YORK - Serena Williams is set to become the subject of an in-depth investigation after launching into a profane outburst that prompted her exit out of the U.S. Open.

Yahoo! Sports has learned that Williams will be asked to explain her actions and comments toward a female line judge at the end of her semifinal defeat to Kim Clijsters on Saturday night. A source revealed that representatives from tennis' governing body - the International Tennis Federation - plus members of the Grand Slam Committee, which oversees the four major tournaments - will convene along with U.S. Open referee Brian Earley on Sunday.

The group is expected to review video footage of the incident, seek clarification from the line judge and most likely hand down a heavy fine to Williams. A representative from the WTA Tour is also expected to be included, although the Tour does not have jurisdiction over Grand Slam events.

Williams lost her cool after being called for a foot fault on a second serve while trailing 15-30 and 5-6 in the second set. Clijsters won the first set 6-4.

The call gave Clijsters a match point, but it was never played as Williams exploded into a verbal tirade at the line judge. According to the Associated Press, Williams screamed at the official, "If I could, I would take this … ball and shove it down your … throat," Williams said.

The line judge then reported the comments to umpire Louise Engzell, as tournament referee Earley rushed on to the court. Williams was heard to yell again at the line judge, loudly insisting "I didn't say I would kill you. Are you serious? Are you serious? I didn't say that."

A code violation was issued for unsportsmanlike conduct, meaning Williams was penalized a point, thereby ending the contest.

Despite the high profile nature of the incident, Williams may escape a more serious sanction such as a ban from future Tour events. Slam tournaments are governed separately.

The ugly confrontation overshadowed a fine performance from Clijsters, who is now remarkably just one win away from clinching the title in her first major since returning to the Tour following the birth of her daughter.

The on-court controversy was followed by a whirlwind of activity once Williams left the playing area at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Following a press conference, Williams met with Earley to discuss the situation. She then left Flushing Meadows in official U.S. Open transportation, accompanied by her mother Oracene Price and sister Venus Williams. At her media conference, Serena refused to back down.

When asked if the line judge deserved an apology, Williams said: "An apology for? From me?"

"How many people yell at linespeople? All the people that kind of yell at linespeople, I think it kind of comes sometimes. Players, athletes, get frustrated. I don't know how many times I have seen that happen."

Clijsters will face Caroline Wozniacki for the U.S. Open crown in a contest that surely will be overshadowed by the inevitable fallout of Williams' mental meltdown.

Serena meltdown controversy swirls

NEW YORK (AFP) - US Open officials were reviewing videotapes Sunday of an angry Serena Williams confronting a line judge in a bizarre ending to her semi-final loss as fans wondered what punishment, if any, awaited her.

US television commentator Pam Shriver called for 11-time Grand Slam champion Williams to apologize for threatening the woman who called a foot fault upon the reigning champion to give rival Kim Clijsters two match points.

Williams reacted by walked toward the woman who made the call, waving her racquet before her, and launching into a profanity-tinged tirade that led to an unsportsmanlike conduct violation.

Because Williams had already received a warning after smashing her racquet following the last point of the first set, the penalty point she was assessed handed Belgium's Clijsters a berth in Sunday's final.

US Open officials were looking at videotapes of Saturday night's incident. Both Williams and match umpire Louise Engzell were interviewed by tournament referee Brian Earley before they left for home Saturday night.

Williams had no update on her Twitter page, which had featured a flurry of messaging before the match-ending meltdown, and nothing on her website blog about it except for a journalistic account of the incident.

That entry, however, sparked 280 responses in 17 hours since the match ended, ranging from outrage to support.

Williams will return to Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday afternoon to join her sister Venus in the US Open women's doubles final against top seeds Cara Black of Zimbabwe and American Liezel Huber.

ANALYSIS-Tennis-Serena earns a place in the tennis hall of shame
By Pritha Sarkar

NEW YORK, Sept 13 (Reuters) - It is unlikely Serena Williams will ever forget the night she snapped and surrendered her U.S. Open crown over a foot-fault storm.

No matter what the talented American goes on to achieve or how many more grand slam titles she amasses, there will always be a footnote to her career about how she suffered one of the most inglorious exits from a grand slam stage-penalised on match point down for her expletive-laced tirade directed at a lineswoman who had dared to call her for a foot-fault.

"I used to have a real temper, and I've gotten a lot better," the 11-times grand slam champion said to a newsroom packed with stunned reporters.
"So I know you don't believe me but I used to be worse. Yes, yes, indeed."

It is hard to believe that after watching her rant that was played out on Saturday to a global audience of millions during her hotly anticipated semi-final against Kim Clijsters.

Trailing 4-6 5-6 15-30, Williams launched into a second serve but the bespectacled lineswoman sitting at the baseline held up her finger to call her on a foot-fault-meaning the American had served a double-fault to go match point down.

Astounded by the verdict, Williams flipped out and marched to the official shouting. She waved her racket ominously in the lineswoman's direction and then shook a ball in her clenched fist as she threatened "to shove it down" her throat.

"I swear to God I'm… going to take this… ball and shove it down your… throat, you hear that? I swear to God. You better be glad-you better be glad that I'm not, I swear." Williams told the line-judge in her expletive-laden rant.

Having already received a warning earlier in the match for smashing a racket, Williams was handed an automatic point penalty for a second violation which gave Clijsters the match 6-4 7-5 and a date in the final with Danish ninth seed Caroline Wozniacki.

"This is the weirdest end to a match I have ever seen," nine-times Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova observed in her role as a commentator for the match.

On a day when women's finalists Clijsters and Wozniacki should have been taking centre stage, Williams again stole the spotlight in the States as her meltdown was repeatedly shown on several networks, and will no doubt turn into a You Tube hit.

Although television replays failed to determine whether she had foot-faulted, the 27-year-old's outburst instantly earned her a place in tennis's hall of shame, which already boasts her idol John McEnroe as a member.

In fact, not since McEnroe was defaulted from a fourth-round match against Mikael Pernfors at the 1990 Australian Open-when he swore at the umpire, supervisor, and referee-has a singles player suffered such an ignominious exit from such a high profile match.

McEnroe was slapped with a $6,500 fine for his behaviour and Williams's $350,000 pay-cheque she earned for her semi-final run will also take a hit.

While fines are usually posted the following morning after an incident, by Sunday afternoon no ruling had been made on Williams's misdemeanour.

So seriously have officials deemed her offence, they were locked into a meeting for several hours as they tried to unravel the incidents that took place.

The Los Angeles Times was in no doubt about exactly what punishment should be meted out.

"Let's get right to the point. Serena Williams should be fined heavily and suspended for a while from the pro tennis tour. Let's see what kind of guts tennis, a sport normally soft on discipline, has this time. If she were a football player, she'd be out for the season."

(Editing by Steve Ginsburg, To query or comment on this story email