Serena's Loss, NFL Underway

Monday, September 14, 2009

Week one of this year's NFL season is over and we want to know which teams and players to watch for. Our own sports contributor, Ibrahim Abdul Matin, gives us the rundown, along with some thoughts on Serena Williams' confrontation with a line judge at the U.S. Open over the weekend.


Ibrahim Abdul-Matin

Comments [18]

Peter M. Arel

Serena Williams SHOULD be penalized for threatening a linesperson,even if the linesperson couldn't see very well. BOYCOTTING the company she endorses the Nike sneakers for(the company, BTW, is Nike).Tell the folks at Nike that if Serena Williams continues to endorse their sneakers they've made you a Reebok customer.

Oct. 19 2011 09:13 PM

"If it's not a "methinks the white folk doth protest too much" situation, what is it?"

Gee, Rebecca, maybe it's that Caucasians are sick and tired of being called racists when they are not? Have you not seen the statistics on how many Caucasians voted for Obama versus how many African Americans voted for McCain? So much for your supposed "...racism in the tone of the attacks against Barack Obama, Sonia Sotomayor, and Van Jones,..." If you actually look up those stats, you'll realize that I just ripped your race card to shreds.

Sep. 19 2009 01:27 PM

"Charges of racism are incendiary when true; when unfounded they are dangerous."

So even when it's true, calling someone out on their racism is unconscionable? I'm sorry, I don't buy it. However unpleasant it may be to experience an accusation of racism, it's much more unpleasant to experience, you know, ACTUAL RACISM.

Like all the voices of reason recently that have tried to point out the racism in the tone of the attacks against Barack Obama, Sonia Sotomayor, and Van Jones, Mr Abdul-Matin isn't claiming that the incident itself happened because of racism. He's trying to point out that we (the media and their audiences) process and talk about such incidents differently for women than for men, and for black people that for white. Why are so many people resistant to this idea? And why is the resistance so passionate? If it's not a "methinks the white folk doth protest too much" situation, what is it?

Sep. 17 2009 10:01 PM

I have never in my life seen so many PC racists. I can only hope that it is Al Sharpton posing as several people.

Sep. 16 2009 10:12 AM

I find these comments fascinating. On the one hand you have a group voicing profound opposition to Abdul-Matin's comments, and another group, presumably Mr. Abdul-Matin's associates (they're referring to him by first name) voicing their support of him and to a degree his opinions.

For the first group, I'd like to ask, if race isn't a factor, then why was it this particular commentary that drew so many of you to respond? Mr. Abdul-Matin's other pieces never seem to provoke such vitriol.

For Mr. Abdul-Matin's supporters, aren't you also overstating race's importance to this commentary?

Serena didn't do anything that Martina Hingis wouldn't have done were she in the same situation.

As Americans we like to make this incident more epic than it really is. The US Open is still a distant third behind Wimbledon and the French Open when it comes to stature. Rather than recognize this, we overvalue any drama associated the open, and this is precisely what is happening now.

Sep. 15 2009 04:11 PM

While Ms. Williams' outburst was excessive I'm sure it's not the first time in the history of the game the f-bomb has been dropped by a player on the court. We have more microphones on the court than ever these days. This was a crucial juncture in the match and needless to say emotions were riding high. Mr. Matin raises an excellent point and I'm glad he and Mr. Hockenberry did not simply seek to proverbially "lynch" Ms. Williams like everyone else seems to eager to do. While her actions were out of line portraying her as the personification of the "evil black b**" is even more out of line.

Sep. 15 2009 02:26 PM
Dina B.

Ibrahim's commentary is succint and doesn't provide the pretentious air that sports/social/political commentary can easily carry with it. Commentary is such: a person's opinions. I completely agree that race is a factor in the analysis of a person's behavior. Just as gender is. To be in denial of this is to dismiss hundreds and thousands of years of history, not to mention the contemporary examples of how race and gender are of great impact today.

With that said, I don't believe that passion should be used to qualify a threatening outburst, but it serves to ground the event and gives it context. And that's the point of commentary... to expand beyond just the facts and look at the significance and interplay of other factors in our society. How did this become a question of the integrity of the TakeAway and of Mr. Abdul-matin? Because we don't know how to talk about race and gender issues in America.

Sep. 15 2009 02:12 PM

The mere presence of black female athletes in a majority white sport warrants an analysis of media portrayals of race and gender. Stereotypes influence the entertainment industry, which arguably includes pro tennis. Public memory shapes the dominant discourse surrounding a player's actions. Serena's foul-mouthed dialogue may be reprehensible. Nonetheless, her antics are dramatized to fit the cliche of the "loud angry black b-" i.e. she's not only out of line in the game, she's "out of control" as an "uppity" black woman.
OJ Simpson's trial for the alleged murder of his wife wasn't solely televised for its criminal content. The case magnified the celebrity's race, recollecting anti-miscegenation laws. OJ was not only an abuser; he was also the "big black brute" in the public imagination who deserved to be 'lynched' for his assault against a white woman. One can't condone verbal/physical abuse, but one needn't ignore race & gender dynamics either.

Sep. 15 2009 01:29 PM

I fully support Adbul-Matin's commentary. Of course race is a factor here AND this is not to say racism is at play. It's refreshing to hear a voice that is willing to acknowledge where society is currently (in regard to Serena's unique position as an African American player) and introduce a more mature nuance into the discourse. Just the fact that race was *mentioned* has people up in arms. That in itself is telling. America needs more of this type of courage so we can engage constructively around race in this country. Thanks to the Take Away for providing this important perspective.

Sep. 15 2009 12:49 PM

Mr. Matin got the Serena Williams matter wrong in several ways.

* He assumes race was a factor, when there's no evidence that it was.
* He says Williams didn't commit a foot fault. CBS's replay was from behind the baseline--not a good view. Isn't it possible that the line judge, who had a good view, made the correct call?
* He said that the line judge should not have made that call in such a critical situation. Maybe he doesn't know the rules.

Tennis is not basketball, where referees make subjective foul calls. If a ball (or foot) is on the line in tennis, it must be called for what it is. Officials are not to make or disregard a line call based on not wanting to affect a match's outcome.

* The tantrums by McEnroe, et al. were 20 or 30 years ago. Tennis has changed rules so that incidents like those DON'T occur very often. And those players didn't make personally threatening remarks as Williams did:
"I swear to God, I'm going to shove this f***ing ball down your f***ing throat."

Sep. 15 2009 01:44 AM

I am so disappointed in the quality of LISTENERS of the Takeaway. This show NEEDS people like Abdul-Matin to bring traffic to their waves, to their site, and to help their overall image. I come with a network of at least 250 people that listen to the Takeaway daily and absolutely enjoy the succinct sports news and occasional political analysis that Ibrahim provides. Furthermore, his blogging on this site is insightful and delightfully written. Keep it up Ibrahim, don't let the naysayers get to you; remember, if you're pleasing everyone, you're doing something wrong.

Sep. 15 2009 01:08 AM

Mr. Matin's comments today on Serena Williams sounded like something you would here from a fresman majoring in Gender Studies, repeating a phrase he thinks will impress his professor. His "insights" into sports are usually boring and inane, but this time he outdid himself. I know NPR is trying to appeal to younger listeners but dumbing down is not the way to go. He has a terrible voice and it does not sound like he prepares for the show at all. Matin is certainly not in the same league as Frank Deford. GET RID OF HIM! In the meantime there is always WNYC AM.

Sep. 14 2009 03:58 PM

"Passion" shouldnt be an excuse. She put herself in a position where her skill could no longer decide the match and it cost her.

Roddick, Nadal, even Venus Williams all play with passion and still somehow manage to win championships without telling judges that they want to ram balls down throats.

Hopefully she learned her lesson.

Sep. 14 2009 02:29 PM

I completely disagree with the listener's comments above. I think Mr. Matin's comments were on point unlike the match point. No where was he making a claim that anyone was racist; he was simply saying that race (and gender) were factors in the way this story was portrayed. Investigating the call, especially such a high stakes call, is absolutely fine, and quite standard to do! I commend the Takeaway for providing alternative viewpoints and clearly controversial takes on such stories. They take sports to another level and get us to think about more than just scores and winners.

Sep. 14 2009 01:46 PM

I too was disturbed after hearing the reporting on the match and the comments of Mr. Abdul-Matin. Charges of racism are incendiary when true; when unfounded they are dangerous. With no evidence, except saying that whenever an African American is involved race is an issue, Mr. Abdul-Matin concluded racism caused Serena's default, not her unsportsmanlike conduct which included breaking her racket earlier in the match. And, who in particular here was racist? The line judge? The officials? The tennis association? The comments by Mr. Hockenberry and Mr. Abdul-Matin were misleading and sloppy. Although I'm a regular listener this incident highlighted some of my ongoing concerns about the show. Rather than directly challenging Mr. Abdul-Matin about the charge, Mr. Hockenberry seemed to agree with Mr. Abdul-Matin and fueled the unfounded claim with his softball questions. I now question the integrity and veracity of other commentary and reporting I hear on the show.

Sep. 14 2009 01:18 PM
gerard gilboe

Mr. Matin's comments regarding Serena Williams' behavior, and Mr. Hockenberry's for that matter, were at best ill informed and at worst downright ignorant. Read today's New York Times and you will find that this is not the first time Ms. Williams has threatened someone on the court. Your guest also called for an investigation of the linesperson for what reason? Because she did her job? Because she had the guts to make a call against the top player in the world (who was being outplayed at the time) at an important part of the match? Rules are rules. I agree that women are more severely criticised when they behave poorly, but any man who threatened to jam a @#$%ing ball down a linesman's @#$%ing throat would be treated the same. In fact, if a lesser ranked European player had done such a thing against Ms. Williams she would be villified in the press. In this case the double standard seems to have worked in favor of Ms. Williams. Check your facts next time.

Sep. 14 2009 10:00 AM
Cliff Korman

Is Mr. Abdul-Matin implying that Serena Williams is the only player that comes with a high level of "passion" for the game? Does that make it uncontrollable? And is he really comparing Williams' behavior to that of George Bush?
Why the apologies for clearly immature behavior?


Sep. 14 2009 09:44 AM
Gary Mink

I just heard Mr. Matin's comment on the Serenea Williams U.S. Open incident this weekend. I have been listening to NPR for many years. One of the reasons is that it has not been filled with the kind of grossly biased commentary one hears on most other political discussions on radio. Mr. Matin's comments, however, rival any outrageous idiocy from Sean Hannity or Michael Savage. Mr. Matin states that there was "always a racial issue when there's the only African American player on the court".
What evidence doe he have for this claim? Nothing, other than the fact that she's African American and the officials were white. So OBVIOUSLY the whites were racists. How pathetic. Where did you get this guy???
Whenever the Takeaway is on, I will now switch stations. But, of course, you can dismiss my thoughts because anyone who disagrees with you is probably a racist too. You degrade a proud journalistic tradition on NPR to the level of insipid college radio.

Sep. 14 2009 08:54 AM

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