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Serena Williams explodes, forced to apologize for US Open tirade September 14, 2009

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US tennis star Serena Williams recently found herself in hot water during the US Open women’s semi-final match against Kim Clijsters. In the last set of the match, the line judge declared a rare foot fault on Williams, which sunk her to 15-40 against Clijsters. An upset Williams confronted the line judge, and as it was reported by the media, yelled “If I could, I would take this ******* ball and shove it down your ******* throat.” The line judge complained, and Williams was penalized a point, which unfortunately cost her the match. Asked to apologize afterward, Williams refused, stating: “From me? How many people yell at linespeople? Players, athletes get frustrated – I don’t know how many times I’ve seen that happen.”

US Open officials reviewed the tapes almost immediately, and fined Williams $10,000 for her bizarre antics. Though most marketing analysts predicted that Williams’s sponsors would stick with her, the negative publicity she eventually received forced her to apologize for the episode.

To see the tirade yourself, and how Williams initally addressed her breakdown after the match, see the following videos:

Discussion Questions:

1.  Why was Serena’s tirade so offensive?

2.  Why were her initial remarks about the tirade ineffective in repairing her image?

3.  What does Williams have to lose with negative publicity regarding her breakdown?

4.  Was her second apology effective enough to put this crisis behind her? What else might Williams consider doing to repair her image?



1. Greg - September 16, 2009

1. You shouldn’t have to ask why being threatened with having something shoved down your throat is offensive. 2. Her initial remarks were ineffective because she made excuses instead of apologizing. 3. What Williams has lost is whatever little integrity she had before the incident. 4. What do you mean “second apology?” Her first initial public statements contained no apology whatsoever. Her later “apology” was probably done only to appease critics and further further fines or punishments; if she was really sorry she would have made that clear much earlier. Her comments contained more rationalizations and arrogance than contrition. Her self-praising comment that she leads by example is ironic; because her example from the start, and afterward, was atrocious.

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