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Mika Brzezinski Calls Out Serena Williams: ‘Incapable of Not Taking This Personally’

Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski might have surprised some of her “know your value” viewers when she took a nuanced yet critical approach towards Serena Williams’s behavior at her surprising loss on Saturday in the US Open finals.

Serena’s loss (or more to the point, her battle with an umpire that was a surprising stickler for the rules) has sparked a raging social media debate surrounding gender and race. Tennis legend Billie Jean King called it a “double standard” while Facebook feeds were suddenly filled with debates ostensibly between pro-Serena sympathizers who justified her actions as transcending sport and critics who saw a frustrated competitor about to lose a championship match in an untoward manner.

Critical words towards Serena Williams can be seen as a “third rail” in today’s cultural landscape, and a measured and at times pained Brzezinski ultimately arrived at a critical perspective of Ms. Williams for making the dust-up a “personal” issue:

She was being coached, and she also did throw the racket. Personally, I don’t think that’s becoming, whether a man does it or a woman does it. And apparently, it’s against the rules and she threw it, so it happened. And then for me, the biggest thing, especially given, sort of, the conversations I have with women about knowing their value and communicating it effectively. One of the big know your value rules is: don’t take it personally. The entire thing that played out on the court was extremely personal, it was about Serena, it was about being apologized to and it became — it just completely blew out of control and quite frankly impacted her tennis, you could argue. But even more so took away from what was really happening. The winner was amazing and she won and really what should have happened for her, was taken away by Serena, incapable of not taking this all personally and taking it all in.

Brzezinski is an expert on gendered double standards, as the author of the book Knowing Your Value: Women, Money, and Getting What You’re Worth, which focuses on the legacy of male-dominated professions and the shameful pay disparity that still exists.  As such, she opened by recognizing what she described as Serena “carrying a lot of responsibility as a woman in tennis, as an African-American woman.”

The balance of the segment featured commentary from Joe Scarborough and Mike Lupica that, while sympathetic towards Serena, ultimately seemed also to blame Serena for her outburst and not the umpire for alleged hypocrisy.

Watch the clip above, courtesy of MSNBC.

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