Why Serena Williams must act like the first lady of tennis

OPINION - Like the first lady, while the arena may be different, Serena has to look the other way and keep it moving...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

I wish that Serena Williams could have spoken with Michelle Obama shortly after South Carolina’s Rep. Joe Wilson flouted all protocol and in an unprecedented act of disrespect screaming “you lie!” at her husband during a 2009 health care speech before Congress.

Or better yet, Serena, you should have gotten a few minutes with the first lady after the New York Post decided it was perfectly within the realm of acceptability to represent the first black President of the United States as a wailing chimp.

But why wander beyond 2011? Let’s not forget the audacity of reality show queen and pseudo politico Sarah Palin or the ranting of father-made millionaire Donald Trump, a pair of egomaniacal hot messes. Just a few short months ago — while Barack Obama was putting the finishing touches on the plot to kill Osama bin Laden — these two were channeling Bull Connor, screaming and hollering like spoiled kindergarteners for the president to do the unprecedented and produce a birth certificate (as if human resources at the White House had not already seen it).

What Michelle knows — and what Serena obviously doesn’t — is that her husband’s ascension to the most powerful political office in the world has done nothing to eliminate racial double standards. The first lady is no doubt tired of these morons taking swipes at her husband only because in their warped minds the racial climate in America is still welcoming of these absurd positions, and is some instances it is.

Serena is catching heat after yelling “Come on!” while returning volley in her U.S. Open Finals defeat at the hands of Australian Samantha Stosur. Stosur failed to return the shot, which was just out of her reach, but chair umpire Eva Asderaki issued Williams a code violation for “verbal abuse” and awarded Stosur the point.

If you’ve ever seen women play tennis at the highest level, you know that the lion’s share of them squeal like hyenas after every shot, and that there was no audible difference between what Williams yelled during Sunday’s match and the thousands of yelps that preceded it during the two-week long tournament.

Had Williams won the point it probably wouldn’t have mattered; on this day Stosur was simply better. But Williams continued to go back and forth with the judge, and at one point called her “unattractive inside.”The USTA fined Williams $2,000, a laughable expenditure for a woman who’s net worth is believed to be north of $85 million. Williams carries women’s tennis. The fine was infinitesimal specifically to let Williams know that while they had to fine her for public relations purposes, they were going to make the loss as painless as possible.

Williams shouldn’t have been fined at all. What she did on Sunday didn’t come close to her outburst at the U.S. Open two years ago, when she threatened to stuff a tennis ball down a linesman’s throat. But male tennis players from Jimmy Connors to Andy Roddick have said things far worse than that.

I hope that Serena gets all of this, minutia that it may be. She has to keep her cool and learn to leave her emotions and her sass in the hotel room because they will only be used against her by the blue bloods who run her sport. She’s got a bull’s eye on her back — she and her sister Venus always have. She is the physical superior to any of her female counterparts on the circuit, and I don’t doubt for one second that there are biased judges that believe they have to protect some of her opponents from the young woman from Compton.

It is the double standard that permeates all sports. It was readily apparent when, after having a Pro Bowl season two years after an almost two-year stint in a federal prison that would have broken a lesser man, rather than being hailed as the living embodiment of the American Dream, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick’s was told to prove that his success was not a fluke and do it again.

Before the NFL’s Carolina Panthers made Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton the first pick in the draft, Newton was targeted by a specious draft report — chock full of unnamed sources, of course — that said he would fail as a pro. On Sunday, albeit in a losing effort, Newton had the most prolific game of any rookie quarterback in the history of the NFL.

Before Williams finished with Asderaki, she said to her, “You’re a hater.”

There is a mounting body of evidence that might support her. But like the first lady, while the arena may be different, Serena has to look the other way and keep it moving.