Wertheim's Mailbag: Sharapova comment controversy
From Jon Wertheim's Mailbag
As a Japanese, I was offended by the following exchange in Sharapova's SF post match interview:
Q: Why do you think you're so popular in Asia? What are the reasons?
SHARAPOVA: In Asia, well, I'm blonde, and when people see someone that's blonde, they go crazy over there.
This sounds racially insensitive by itself, but especially so because she just made millions off of those people by her exhibition tour in Asia, all the while paying lip service like "I love coming here! Fans here are so special!" Her fans think I'm overreacting. Your take?
-- Akiyo, Urayasu, Japan
First, while I'm probably not the ideal person to arbitrate this, big props to Akiyo for opening this to discussion and questioning her interpretation, rather than simply casting aside Sharapova as a bigot. ("Civil discourse fever: catch it!")
Jon Wertheim's take: Sharapova's remarks don't represent the pinnacle of sensitivity. Nothing quite like generalizing about four billion people. On the other hand, she's not really saying anything inherently pejorative. (Had she said, say, "Those Asians, they go crazy for illicit drugs, black market firearms, Rob Schneider movies and the Joan/Melissa Rivers combo," it would be another story.) We should cut her some slack, getting asked this fairly random question right after a Grand Slam loss. Also, the question is a bit leading, especially given the context. Had she responded, "They like me for my tennis," the obvious follow-up: then why don't the three players ranked ahead of you have nearly the same currency?
So someone ought to circle this exchange in the transcript and explain to Sharapova that she could have been more sensitive and thoughtful, especially because this market is so vital to the P/E ratio of Sharapova, Inc. But I think the sackcloth and ashes can remain in the closet. If any of you have a different take, I'm happy to hear it.
Any comments guys?
IMO, I can't find anything wrong or race-sensitive in what Sharapova said.