Reporter takes heat for Serena Williams video description
Tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg was at the center of a controversy on Saturday after he received backlash for his description of an exchange Serena Williams had with a different reporter on Thursday at Indian Wells.
Williams on Thursday made her return to the court for the first time since giving birth to her daughter in January and won her match. Afterwards, she was faced with a question about her use of prednisolone — a banned substance — during the 2015 French Open. Williams received a Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) for the substance because she was sick.
The question seemed to catch Williams off guard and led to a tense situation. Here’s video:
Here’s the “heated exchange” @BenRothenberg said @serenawilliams had w/ a reporter. An exchange where Serena did not once raise her voice or give any indication of anger (when she had every right to) has been coined “heated” and “testy”. pic.twitter.com/cgB1GMziQH
— Mm… (@Joracle_) March 10, 2018
Rothenberg, a tennis reporter who freelances for the New York Times, was not in Indian Wells, but he tweeted on Friday that he was surprised the “heated exchange” between Williams and the reporter did not receive more attention.
Hi Lenny, I couldn’t copy the link but I did take a screenshot of his tweet. There you can see he did say it was a heated argument and judging by the video, there was no heat argument, exchange or whatever. She wasn’t happy about the question but she answered it. pic.twitter.com/xFpsGectGr
— Roberta Cacciatore (@Rob_cacci) March 10, 2018
Many people disputed Rothenberg’s description of the matter as “heated.” Williams’ husband, Alexis Ohanian, responded and said Serena was “cool, calm, and collected.”
More like "cool, calm, and collected exchange." https://t.co/xDxEH5T5wu
— Alexis Ohanian Sr. (@alexisohanian) March 10, 2018
Rothenberg acknowledged his description was wrong and said “intense” would have been a better word.
You’re right, heated definitely wasn’t the right word. Intense, but not heated.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 10, 2018
Former world No. 1 men’s player Andy Roddick, a longtime friend of Williams, also challenged Rothenberg.
Calling this heated is pure clickbait …. I’m not sure how to forcefully defend yourself while still keeping an element of respect better than she did here. @BenRothenberg I’m guessing you’d be “intense” as well if someone questioned your integrity. You should be better https://t.co/uUP3dNH32F
— andyroddick (@andyroddick) March 11, 2018
Rothenberg then defended himself and said he wasn’t saying Williams had reacted poorly, but merely that the exchange was intense.
Definitely. At no point did I say Serena did anything wrong or handled it badly. I said it was a heated exchange (and that word referred to the exchange, not Serena) because it was a loaded question that she knocked back forcefully.
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) March 11, 2018
Rothenberg’s “heated exchange” description may have been slightly off, but not by much. The exchange certainly was tense. And nowhere in his tweet did he say Williams reacted poorly. All he said was that he was surprised the matter didn’t receive more attention, which is a fair comment.
Williams is used to dealing with far worse though, so she probably just brushed this matter aside.