MEDIA WATCH: Hingis double faulted in slamming the Williamssisters

Published on the eve of the US Open, Time magazine's September 3

cover story was a profile on how Venus and Serena Williams epitomize the

exciting future of women's tennis. But what had the media talking were

controversial comments made by No. 1-ranked tennis star Martina Hingis

about the Williams sisters.



Time quoted Hingis as saying, "Being black only helps them. Many times

they get sponsors because they are black. And they have had a lot of

advantages because they can always say, 'It's racism.' They can always

come back and say, 'Because we are this color, things happen.'"



Nearly half of the stories that carried Hingis' comments also carried

the reaction of the Williams sisters. Serena appeared graceful as she

stated, "All I know is I get endorsements because I win and I work

hard ... As for being black and getting more endorsements because I'm

black, I wouldn't know anything about that" (The Miami Herald, August

28).



Aside from carrying a response from the Williams sisters, coverage most

frequently turned against Hingis. In the aftermath of the Time article,

The New York Times (August 28) reported, "Hingis has a history of

putting her foot in her mouth." The New York Daily News (August 28) took

a more direct tone: "It isn't Hingis' fault that she doesn't grasp the

black American consciousness. It's just that she should probably shut up

now about it, before things get worse."



The New York Daily News (August 27) was also one of the few media

outlets to put the quote in context, explaining what had prompted the

remark.



Hingis and many others questioned exactly why Venus bowed out of a match

scheduled against her sister in the semifinals at the Indian Wells

tournament.



There was speculation that Venus had done this to avoid a head-to-head

battle with her sister. Hingis complained no one wanted to investigate

why this had happened.



Coverage appeared divided about whether Hingis' explanation at the US

Open constituted an apology or not. The Hartford News (August 28)

reported that Hingis was sorry, but Cox News (August 27) reported no

such apology.



Hingis' explanation seemed weak and vague, so it's easy to see how

reporters interpreted her words in different ways. Hingis stated, "I'm

sorry if I hurt anybody's feelings, but I think at the time I meant it,

probably not in the same way. I think I was right at that time ... I

just maybe said something, which is not politically correct. I don't

know all the laws, all the rules, what's going on in this country. If

you expect that from me, it's too much."



Some reporters took the sisters to task over some of their comments,

which were perceived as arrogant. Others hinted that Hingis' snipes were

motivated by jealousy since she hasn't won a major tournament in some

time. Finally, a few reports acknowledged that while the Williams

sisters have never discussed race, their father/coach has been outspoken

on the subject.



The general consensus appears to be that although the Williams sisters

are great players, they're not very warm and fuzzy characters.

Similarly, Hingis doesn't seem to be gaining fans with her remarks, and

is developing a bad reputation. But whatever the personalities, women's

tennis is shaping up as a must-see event.



- Evaluation and analysis by CARMA International. Media Watch can be

found at www.carma.com.



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