This weekend the internetz has been all a-flutter about Serena Williams‘ performance in the U.S. Open finals against Japan’s Naomi Osaka. Unfortunately, it’s not about her athletic performance, but about her anger about what she deemed an incorrect call from a judge. Her repeated lashing out against the chair umpire Carlos Ramos cost her three penalties, a $17,000 fine, and ultimately, the match and the U.S. Open title.
Here’s the thing: do I think Serena should have yelled at and argued with a match judge? No, I don’t. But to be fair, the first penalty she was called on, “coaching,” alleges that she was receiving illegal coaching from her coach during a match. This is cheating. She let her temper get the best of her while defending her honor over being called a cheater. She wasn’t being a punk, she was the greatest tennis player of all time who cleaaarly doesn’t need to cheat, and she was very mad about being called a CHEAT! I kind of get it.
So, yes, she let things get out of hand. How-EV-er, it’s not like we haven’t seen a zillion male tennis stars do the same thing and get penalized LESS than she did. A CNN article reporting on Serena Williams’ penalties, especially the game penalty she received for calling the male judge a “thief” for previously taking a point away from her as a penalty for breaking her racket, said the following, and I wholeheartedly agree.
“We know that there’s quite a history to it. Think of John McEnroe, think of Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi. These men all berated chair umpires, famously so. Commercials have been made. McEnroe has done, ‘you can’t be serious’ and all the other tirades, top of his lungs over the years and none of them received a game penalty,” Brennan said.
“Would he (umpire) have done that with a man? History has said, no. He would not have done that with a man.”
Retired US tennis star Andy Roddick tweeted, “I’ve regrettably said worse and I’ve never gotten a game penalty.”
History has said no, and I agree. I believe that when women express rage and high emotion, when they react with anger when the stakes are high, they are categorized as “Hysterical Females,” while when men do it, it’s just a “normal” way for a man to express his anger. I am highly emotional, and I’ve had professional conflict that resulted in me expressing a great deal of emotion, and I have very much felt the shame of being branded the “hysterical female.” But I’m not stoic; I feel everything BIG or not at all. So if you repeatedly treat me unfairly, yes, you will see emotion out of me, as that judge saw it out of Serena Williams.
But she called him a thief…not any of the 4-letter and worse expletives her male counterparts have used on the court time and time again when they were upset at judges.
At a press conference after the match, Williams said, “He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief.’ For me it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women.”
Tennis great Billie Jean King agreed with Serena Williams, tweeting, “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ & and there are no repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”
Do I think Serena Williams was right to lose her cool, even if the call was unfair? No, I don’t. If she’d continued the game and not pushed it, she likely would have defeated Osaka and won a record-breaking 24th Grand Slam tennis title. Her temper did cost her, and she shouldn’t have let it go so far.
BUT. I agree with her that the penalties would NOT have been so severe for a dude. I think that male umpire didn’t like a woman yelling at him. I think he hated it a lot more than he hates it when Andy Roddick mouths off. A CBS article by Christina Capatides agrees with me, saying:
“No matter how you think professional athletes should behave, Williams is right to be angry. Male players are often excused — celebrated, even — for putting their emotions on display in the heat of the moment. In fact, Ramos — the very same umpire who penalized Williams a game for calling him a “thief” and accusing him of lying — has tolerated similar, and arguably worse, outbursts from male players on numerous occasions.
At the 2016 French Open, Australian player Nick Kyrgios blew up at Ramos after he was given a warning for raising his voice at a ballboy. “That’s bulls**t. Are you kidding?” Kyrgios shouted at the official. “Bulls**t, f***ing bulls**t.” He was given neither a point penalty, nor a game penalty.”
So, while some want to deride Serena Williams for her bad behavior on the court this weekend, I just can’t get mad at the girl. She’s been attacked over and over during her career: her race and her body and her outfits over-scrutinized. Maybe this was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. I don’t deride her for it. I applaud her for holding it together for this long, when she really should not have had to.
Sorry guys, I’m with Serena Williams on this one. But like her, I’m really not sorry at all.