Why Those Stupid Comments About Williams Sisters Can't Be Ignored
There is no way to quantify the number of stupid and irresponsible things people in this world utter on a minute-to-minute basis. So common is it that we barely notice anymore, with a few notable exceptions: If the stupid stuff is said about us and to us personally. Or, if it is said by someone with a microphone and an important title.
When that happens, more unfortunate things happen. The stupid stuff is heard by a lot of people and given more credence. And the idiot who said it gets attention.
Too bad we could not ignore the latest moronic and public comments by a seemingly important person, Shamil Tarpischev, the head of the Russian Tennis Federation.
On a comedy show in Russia that sounds like nonstop hilarity, Tarpischev called Serena and Venus Williams "the Williams brothers," adding that "it's frightening when you look at them."
Stacey Allaster, chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association, acted promptly, fining Tarpischev $25,000 and banning him from any tour involvement for a year, both of which will probably have less impact than a toddler's timeout.
Unfortunately, the fine was the maximum allowed under WTA rules, Allaster said. But she also said that she was trying to have Tarpischev removed from his post as chairman of the Kremlin Cup women's tournament in Moscow for one year.
"The WTA was founded on the principles of equality, opportunity and respect, and Venus and Serena embody all of these attributes," Allaster said. "Mr. Tarpischev's statement questioning their gender tarnishes our great game and two of our champions. His derogatory remarks deserve to be condemned and he will be sanctioned."
Naturally, he said his comments were taken out of context.
"I didn't want to offend any athlete with my words," he said. "I regret that this joke ... has garnered so much attention. I don't think this incident deserves so much fuss."
He's right, it doesn't. Yet, like most criticism hurled at female athletes, the insult was founded on the premise that the more talented they are, the greater the odds that male hormones are involved.
And because Tarpischev isn't just another yokel, but also a member of the International Olympic Committee, it's one more voice that -- as much as we'd like to -- we can't completely ignore.
The Williams sisters don't deserve this, of course. It comes out of nowhere and attacks not just two of the sport's biggest stars, but the very foundation of the women's game. Both of them could decide to retire tomorrow in disgust. But clearly, in addition to having a warped sense of humor, Tarpischev doesn't understand the concept of not biting the proverbial hand that feeds him.
David Haggerty, president of the United States Tennis Association, echoed Allaster in telling the New York Times that Tarpischev owes the Williamses a public apology, which will be one more story about this guy that gets reported.
No end to the stupid stuff. But a little public humiliation isn't a bad thing, either.