Serena & Mo’ne: The right way

Published 10:11 am Sunday, March 29, 2015

Stacia Brown’s column in the Washington Post last week reminded me of something we too often sweep under the rug in our all-too “politically-correct” society.

Resentment of all types seems to follow black female athletes.

Brown referenced Alice Coachman, the first black woman from any nation to win an Olympic gold medal in 1948, and Althea Gibson, the first African-American woman to win a Grand Slam tennis event. Brown quotes Coachman as having said following a snub by the powers that be in her Georgia hometown during a celebration of her historic accomplishment, “It wasn’t any problem for me because I had won. That (the social rejection) was up to them, whether they accepted it or not.”

Serena Williams, on the verge of becoming the greatest women’s Grand Slam tennis winner of all time, made a triumphal return to a pro tennis event in trendy Indian Wells, California which she and her sister Venus had boycotted since 2001 because of the slurs, racial epithets, accusations of match-fixing and boos they endured when they played there 13 years ago. Ironically, Indian Wells is where Serena won her first-ever pro tennis match, where she and Venus took the 1997 doubles title.

But Serena forgave Indian Wells; maybe easier to do when you’re a 19-time majors winner, but she based part of her maturation on scripture: “When you stand praying, forgive whatever you have against anyone, so that your Father who is in the heavens may also forgive you” (Mark 11:25).  She said she had grown and felt the tennis patrons at Indian Wells had as well.  Unfortunately, Serena couldn’t complete her return because a knee injury forced her to withdraw from the tournament.

But that magnanimity brings me to Little League baseball star, Mo’ne Davis. Last week Bloomsbury University baseball player Joey Casselberry – a Pennsylvania champion just like Davis – got kicked off the team for tweeting disparagingly about the idea of a film being made based on her life.

Davis didn’t just publicly forgive Casselberry; she appealed to Bloomsbury to let him back on the team. She’s quoted as saying, “Everyone makes mistakes and everyone deserves a second chance. I know right now he’s really hurt and I know how hard he worked to get where he is. I mean, I was pretty hurt on my part but I know he’s hurting even more.”

Davis’ baseball career is probably over.  She hopes one day to play for UConn in women’s basketball, and if she keeps up in hoops like she has on the diamond, she could meet similar, or greater, success by transitioning from youth phenom to formidable adult athlete. Between now and her own college experience, she could face any number of challenges that may threaten to derail her career. But her endorsements, her constantly rising public profile and her grace under pressure — a trait the Casselberry incident only serves to underscore — provide her a level of long-term support that makes beefing with a thoughtlessly cruel college athlete unnecessary. Public favor is everything to a girl in Mo’ne Davis’s position, and it seems that she is in no danger of losing hers any time soon.

 Gene Motley is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7211.