Top: Hope Solo, Lolo Jones; Bottom: Serena Williams, Venus Williams
REPORTING FROM THE LONDON OLYMPICS
LONDON (July 31) — Serena Williams is smart enough to figure this out, experienced enough to hear warning sirens. With her unfiltered thoughts, she has inspired people at times, embarrassed herself at times. She has traveled the world, lived in public half her life. She’s 30 years old.
So despite having nearly 3 million followers, Williams, the sports world’s Queen of Twitter, recognizes that this isn’t the time to start talking off the top of her head.
“I’ve been really careful about saying things in social media,’’ she said Monday when I asked her about athletes getting kicked out of the Olympics for racist and insensitive tweets. “I haven’t been on my account too much. I would be devastated if I got kicked out of the Olympics.’’
These are already the Twitter Games. The Solo/Lolo Show has dominated US Olympics talk. Soccer player Hope Solo went on a Twitter rant against Brandi Chastain. Hurdler Lolo Jones made an insensitive joke on Twitter about the US and guns.
And on Monday, a second athlete — neither are Americans — was kicked out of the Olympics for racist comments on Twitter. Should athletes be kicked out of the Olympics for racist tweets?
For some reason, we can’t have a normal, rational discussion about common sense. It takes too much time. So I should have expected the type of reaction I’d get from a little truth I wrote the other day about Serena Williams and her sexy Twitter avatar.
It pushed a button somewhere, and the automatic thoughts popped up about me: Victim-blamer, misogynist. I’ve been called those things hundreds of times in the past few days, all because I said it was reckless of her to post a photo of herself in white bra, panties and high heels so close to her stalker scare.
I’m not sure how this has happened, whether our reaction time is just so fast now because of Twitter and a 24-hour news cycle, but we’ve dropped into such a simplistic mentality about things. We go straight to a yes/no, up/down, black/white, Republican/Democrat faulty either/or logical fallacy. Maybe it’s because of technology’s lightning pace: An idea comes up that people don’t agree with and there is no time to think it through, find shades of gray, so the opposing thoughts fall into neat, orderly, pre-cut extreme categories, names, labels.
I wrote that Williams’ picture, which had you looking at her through a sheer curtain, was suggestive of peeping at her, but was not pornographic. She looked great in it, and under normal circumstances, it might be considered artistic. But not now. Not just a week or so after a stalker had been arrested. At this point, it’s reckless. It’s also hypocritical.
The reaction went a little nuts. Yahoo! wrote a column about it and put it on their email welcome screen. AOL ran my column on its welcome screen. My little tennis blog here had over 700,000 hits. It’s on some foreign site now, but I’m not sure what they’re saying or even what language it’s in.
Next thing you know, one of the on-air people on ABC News is saying my column was “like saying the woman wore a short skirt and opened herself up to some kind of attack.’’ A blog had this headline: “Greg Couch says Serena Williams is asking for it.’’ Theyayornay.com wrote this: “Who among us has the right to tell a woman when, where and how to be sexy?
It was an amazing example of the immediacy and reach of the modern media, and its potential shallowness.
Yahoo!’s Chris Chase wrote that he disagreed with me: “What’s Serena supposed to do, let the creepy guys win? Dress like Mary Todd Lincoln for the rest of her life?. . .If that’s going to be the case, she might as well stop tweeting since her accused stalker used that as a tool (to track her). . .Hell, she might as well stop playing tennis because that’s how the stalker found her in the first place.’’
Mrs. Lincoln (not her Twitter avatar)
Really? Is that the choice? Put up a photo in bra, panties and high heels or dress like Mary Todd Lincoln? Nothing in between those options? Run that photo or retire from tennis.
I am not blaming Williams for the behavior of social deviants. She is not to blame for the faulty wiring of some nutjob. Nothing she did caused it.
But a warrant had been put out on this alleged stalker, who had appeared in several places all over the country near her. Once, he reportedly got into her dressing room at Home Shopping Network. How did he know where to find her? He allegedly told police that tracking here whereabouts was easy: She says on Twitter where she’ll be.
Even after she knew she had a stalker, and the search was on for him, she continued to tweet where she would be. Does that make her to blame for the stalking? No. It makes her reckless. She put up that photo on her Twitter account to get people to leer at her just days after having someone put away for leering too hard. Continue reading
Greg Couch is an award-winning sports columnist based in Chicago. He covers college football for BleacherReport.com, NFL for RollingStone.com and freelances at several other places, including The New York Times. Lots of tennis, mostly here. He has traveled the world covering tennis and is a member of the International Tennis Writers Association. A former sports columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times, his tennis writing has been in the book "The Best American Sportswriting."