Sexism is painfully real in sports…and it’s getting utterly ridiculous

James Simpson II
Sep 10, 2018 · 7 min read
Serena Williams slams her racket during the 2018 U.S. Open Final. Photo Credit: Business Insider

The U.S. Open Women’s Final wasn’t supposed to go down like this. On a day when history was going to be made, no matter who came out as the winner, where a victory for Serena Williams would have been her all-time Grand Slam tying 24th major (equaling her with Margaret Court) or 20-year-old Naomi Osaka’s first major title, that would make her the first Japanese tennis player (male or female) to win a grand slam title. The farouche Osaka turned out to be the winner but the major headline to come out of the championship match was a bunch of goofy tennis rules that were not abided by accordingly to chair umpire, Carlos Ramos.

What transpired was one of the biggest controversies in Grand Slam tennis history that was centered around sexism and gender discrimination against the greatest female tennis player ever.

How women get treated and looked upon in this world compared to men throughout different avenues and areas (workplace, Hollywood, roles of leadership, family settings, wages) has been plainly apparent for decades now but in sports, the issue seems to pop up every so often that it just infuriates the masses. That time came full circle during Saturday’s women’s final.

Williams, who has been entangled in three other controversial moments at her home grand slam before (2004, 2009, 2011), had to deal with this mess all over again. After getting outplayed in the first set by Osaka and losing it 6–2, Williams started well early in the second set but shortly Ramos issued her a warning for receiving coaching from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou in the player’s box due to some hand gestures he was signaling to her. While watching the match, it wasn’t entirely clear if Williams made eye contact with her coach or even saw him in that instant, but it’s comical on all fronts given the fact that coaches communicate with their players on both the ATP and WTA tours constantly during matches. I understand there is a coaching rule that is in place but Ramos overstepped his boundaries in that moment. Some players look over to their coaches corner every three minutes for advice, guidance or just a little positive feedback. It’s no big deal and the rule needs to get adjusted ASAP.

For Ramos, who is titled as a “gold badge” umpire, which basically means he’s a well-thought of judge and has some credibility to back up that title, to penalize Williams for something that trivial on this occasion was egregious. The mere fact that he thought some gesture might have some kind of useful influence on her game was a disgrace. Williams was perplexed as I’m sure all of us were who was watching. She explained to Ramos the situation and conveyed to him that, “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.” In that moment, it felt like he was trying to agitate and generate a heated reaction from Williams just to spark up a dispute for the heck of it.

Serena talking with umpire Carlos Ramos during the second set of the U.S. Open final. Photo Credit: India TV

After smashing a racket out of frustration because she was broken on serve, Ramos handed out a second code violation on Williams that resulted in a point penalty. Take away the coaching violation and the racket smashing would have only been a warning. Williams was furious and was having none of Ramos’ nonsense. She berated him and wanted an apology. She then uttered, “You stole a point from me and you are a thief.” Ramos issued a third penalty for verbal abuse that led to him taking a full game away from Williams that extended Osaka’s lead to 5–3 in the second set.

What then proceeded was total chaos and a scene that left emotions running high, not just on Williams’ end but a dissatisfying taste for the fans and more impactfully, for women in general. In a Grand Slam final with so much on the line for both females (probably more so for Williams since she was on the precipice of major history), a male umpire got in the way and punished her for simply letting off some steam. By doing that, Ramos didn’t just take a point away or a game away but eventually snatched the momentum and soul of the entire tournament from Serena and from the sport itself. Out of courtesy, he could have at least given her a warning before issuing the third code violation.

Watch it all for yourself…

Anyone who has followed Serena’s career, knows she is an extremely emotional, passionate and driven competitor, and a strong African-American woman who has had to endure many obstacles on and off the court, and Ramos essentially penalized her for being exactly the individual she has always been. After that coaching violation was issued, it was no longer a tennis match; it was an attack against female athletes and the notion of how they should carry themselves in certain situations, unlike the idea of how a male should act in a similar circumstance.

Receiving a violation for racket abuse, OK I get it, but a coaching violation in the U.S. Open Final of all places did not warrant justification.

Even former players and members of the media weighed in…

ESPN Tennis analyst Patrick McEnroe even voiced his two cents on Sunday’s Good Morning America by saying, “It has to be said that she has a point when it comes to gender bias. I believe that a chair umpire who’s a man, against another man, would have said, whether it’s Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, ‘Listen, you’ve got to pipe down now. You’ve got to be quiet. You’ve gotten two violations. If you get another one, you’re getting a game penalty.’ Nobody wants to see that happen, especially in the U.S. Open final.”

Carlos Ramos simply abused his authority. He’s done it on many occasions before. There’s no other way to put it. Tennis players get frustrated. It’s in their human nature to lose it and crack a racket or two here and there. It’s defined as expressing emotion, the one true form of authenticity and genuinity that’s exhibited by athletes in the purest shape while exerting every ounce of energy and concentration into their respected profession.

Oh that’s right, I mean as long as it’s not a female expressing herself.

And look, even if any of the code violations never occurred doesn’t mean Serena would have pulled herself together and been victorious. Osaka was the better player in the final. She struck the ball cleaner, outhit her, moved better, anticipated better, her serve was more of a weapon and she somewhat beat the G.O.A.T. at her own strengths. No one’s disputing that but it’s the double standard that’s held toward women in tennis compared to men that’s got everyone fired up. Men have acted and said way worse in the past than what Serena displayed during the final.

Look no further than to the rebellious and nasty antics from cantankerous personalities by the likes of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase in the late ’70s and 1980s, without sometimes even being issued a penalty, in which Serena’s level of behavior can’t even compare to the outbursts and grotesque language they demonstrated in their heydays.

So, what was worse: The level of verbal abuse Jimmy Connors displayed in that video or Serena’s discussion with Ramos? It ain’t hard to figure out that Connors’ massive rant was way more repulsive.

Johnny Mac sure was a good ole boy in that tirade, right? The dude essentially threatened the umpire towards the end of the video.

Check out McEnroe in this one, as he attempts to intimidate the lineswoman by standing over her with his masculine frame.

Even the great and mild-mannered Roger Federer lost his cool before and cursed at the umpire…

When a woman shows emotion, their labeled as “overemotional” and “unhinged” yet for a man it’s looked at as just “men being men” or “it’s just typical behavior of them” like it’s just automatically acceptable because their looked at as the more mighty and powerful figure.

Even NBA players have cussed out referees and went off on them in the heat of the battle but we don’t lambaste them.

Gender discrimination reared its ugly head earlier in the first week of the U.S. Open on the women’s side when French player Alize Cornet received a code violation for taking off her shirt to fix her top for a brief moment because she recognized she was wearing it backwards.

It was reported that the U.S. Open put out a statement lamenting the way Cornet was treated. The organization stated that all players are allowed to change their shirts while sitting in their chairs, while female players have the option to change shirts in “a more private location close to the court, when available.”

It’s funny because male players take off their shirts without anyone griping about it. During a match throughout the tournament, John Isner changed his shirt a reported 11 times and he wasn’t penalized.

Serena’s accustomed to this amount of control males try to exert on her given that the black catsuit she wore at the French Open in May — which was designed to help her blood circulation after going through a complicated childbirth last year — was banned because the French Tennis Federation President Bernard Giudicelli announced that they will be introducing a new dress code that would ban players from wearing such form-fitting clothes at the tennis tournament.

“One must respect the game and the place,” Giudicelli said.

Plain sexism to the highest order folks.

After the match, Serena had an empowering message for females all across the globe. Listen at the 8:37 mark…

As a male, the level of sexism and gender discrimination that I witnessed on display towards Serena Williams in the U.S. Open final and is aimed at women in sports quite frequently is disturbing, and a classic example of a male domineering society that too often wants women to conform to their authoritarian views.

Serena didn’t overshadow Osaka’s triumph. The Queen was just standing up for herself and women all over the world. Can’t be made at her for that. If you were backed into that corner and strongly felt like you were being unequally treated because of your gender, culture or race, you would have defended yourself too.

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