Quite simply, Serena’s at fault

Serena Williams and her handlers may need to reach out to ESPN and orchestrate a public-relations fiasco as embarrassing as "The Decision." I’m serious.

It’s clear now "The Decision" is the best thing to ever happen to LeBron James. "The Decision" and the devastating backlash it created caused James to search his soul and emerge a better man and basketball player.

The hate that engulfed James in the year after "The Decision" burned away several of the flaws preventing James from reaching his full potential on and off the court. Serena, off the court, is in need of a similar cleansing. At the age of 31, her lack of self-awareness is astonishing.

Wealth, fame and athleticism are the sworn enemies of self-awareness. So perhaps we should not be surprised that three decades into her existence Serena Williams has the self-awareness of an infant that has yet to pass the mirror test.

A beautiful woman with access to virtually every man on the planet reportedly chooses to play the role of home-wrecker with her tennis coach and then complain within earshot of a Rolling Stone reporter that her No. 1 rival, Maria Sharapova, is dating a man with a black heart.

It’s the equivalent of Calvin Candie (Django Unchained) emerging from his grave to blast Paula Deen for conduct unbecoming of a proper southern lady.

No one should ever again apologize for disliking Serena Williams, or for pointing out her lack of class.

I say that as an enthusiastic Serena Williams fan. I enjoy watching her play. I’d love for her to go down in history as the greatest women’s player. I respect and appreciate what she represents as a role model expanding America’s definition of feminine beauty.

But I also recognize Serena is quite flawed. She has warts she is uninterested in concealing that legitimize the complaints of her critics. Her critics cannot and should not be dismissed as ignorant and insensitive bigots. Even if their perspective is fueled by their racial biases, it does not mean all of their criticisms of the world’s No. 1 player are inaccurate.

Classless and ignorant are just two of the adjectives that can be used to describe Williams’ comments about the Steubenville rape victim in the same Rolling Stone profile.

“I’m not blaming the girl, but if you’re a 16-year-old and you’re drunk like that, your parents should teach you — don’t take drinks from other people,” Williams was quoted as saying. “She’s 16, why was she that drunk where she doesn’t remember? It could have been much worse. She’s lucky. Obviously I don’t know, maybe she wasn’t a virgin, but she shouldn’t have put herself in that position, unless they slipped her something, then that’s different.”

Does anyone remember Geraldo Rivera blaming a hoodie for Trayvon Martin’s death?

That’s exactly how Serena’s comments strike me. Two teenage boys carried a drunken, passed-out teenage girl from party to party and sexually assaulted her. Other teenagers joked about it on Twitter and Facebook, texted each other gross pictures of the victim.

No doubt, there are lessons to be learned — for all parties — from the Steubenville rape case. But Serena is the wrong teacher. The young girl will likely second-guess herself for the rest of her life. She doesn’t need to be second-guessed by the world’s greatest tennis player in a national magazine.

The people rationalizing Serena’s comments should ask themselves would they offer the same sympathetic view to the same people second-guessing Trayvon Martin’s actions on the night he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman.

Serena Williams needs more critics. Not all critics are haters. Some of us are actually lovers, supporters who want to see their idols exceed their goals, fans who think Crip-walking is fun and funny at a nightclub and inappropriate at Wimbledon.

The people rushing to explain away all of Serena’s public missteps are the people ensuring her personal growth will remain stunted. Self-awareness is extremely difficult for people living modest lives. It’s nearly impossible for people with wealth, fame and enormous talent.

Chad Johnson had to spend a week in jail to experience one minute of self-examination.

What will it take for Serena to take inventory of her actions, her soul? She’s not a bad person. She simply does not consistently present herself like a champion. And that is not the fault of racism. It’s Serena’s fault and all of those who enable her.