by G. Brown
On the tennis court, Serena Williams rules. But what happened during the U.S. Open shows what happens when one official expects her to play by his rules.
Many are condemning the encounter Serena endured over the weekend under the chair umpire at the U.S. Open as a blatant case of sexism. Washington Post Columnist Sally Jenkins said the official “took what began as a minor infraction and turned it into one of the nastiest and most emotional controversies in the history of tennis, all because he couldn’t take a woman speaking sharply to him. Williams abused her racket, but Ramos did something far uglier: He abused his authority.”
Umpire Carlos Ramos is being called a thief by many fans and Williams who says he robbed her on the court. He issued Williams three code-of-conduct violations-1 for illegal coaching, 1 for abusing a racket when Williams smashed her racket on the court and 1-for verbally abusing Ramos after his officiating seemed more like a personal vendetta. Some say the violations cost Williams the match to Naomi Osaka. Others say even if the calls had not been made Williams would still have been lost to Osaka who simply outplayed her. But most agree, the official was out of line and may have in fact derailed the championship.
Many agree that Williams should have kept her cool, but others seem to think that Williams lives up to an ugly stereotype of the ‘angry Black woman’.
That cartoon ran in a Melbourne paper and caught a lot of pushback on social media from offended fans…
Where’d you learn to draw there Mark? pic.twitter.com/m7hWIlxS2e
— Toan Loak (@WordsWithJoe) September 10, 2018
This image is offensive. You probably will never realize it, but it exposes so much more about you than it does Serena.
— Agent of Change (@PsycheSojourn) September 10, 2018
This is trash and a poor representation of one of the GREATEST athletes to ever live. AND she’s a badass mother.
What have you ever done?
— Cörï Jö (@Cori_Jo) September 10, 2018
— A_NYC_Girl (@ANYCGirl1) September 10, 2018
Williams was fined $17k, but the money was a small price compared to what it truly cost Williams and Osaka. What should have been a celebration of two fierce competitors going head to head in a championship match instead reduced the women to an emotional brink both of whom finally collapsed into a pool of tears.
Was Serena treated fairly? Consider how many times we’ve witnessed men meltdown on the courts…2016, Andy Murray got so angry he kicked a ball at an umpire’s head-no fine. Andre Agassi once called an umpire an S.O.B-no abbreviations by Agassi. He was penalized a point and later fined $3,000. John McEnroe was kicked out of the 1990 Grand Slam after he smashed his racket and screamed at the judges. But that was the punishment after McEnroe had built an entire career as a temperamental player prone to outbursts in which most looked the other way because he was such a ‘remarkable’ player. No one screamed ‘angry White man’ or ‘White man’s privilege to degrade or dismiss him.
If Serena isn’t angry, she has every reason to be. She acknowledged in a an open letter last year that being a woman and being Black have made her career difficult, but she refused to let them get in her way. Serena said “What others marked as flaws or disadvantages about myself – my race, my gender – I embraced as fuel for my success. I never let anything or anyone define me or my potential. I controlled my future.”
And she did the same after this most recent painful exhibit. As fans booed the outcome and tears flowed from the 20 year old Osaka, the elder player put her arms around Osaka to comfort her but also to relieve all who witnessed it. She calmed a stadium booing and hissing. She took the ugliest part of mankind and turned it into something beautiful by caring about her young competitor and focusing on the celebration owed her. That is not an ‘angry Black woman’…that is the power of a phenomenal woman…phenomenally.