The discussion surrounding the potential double standard that female athletes face has prompted a firestorm of a debate among athletes, officials and fans since Saturday’s U.S. Open final match between 20-year-old Naomi Osaka and veteran Serena Williams.
When Williams was penalized during the final for breaking her racket and receiving “illegal hand gestures” in the form of coaching, she firmly disputed the umpire’s call, demanding an apology for being accused of cheating and calling him a “thief” for costing her points.
Williams was fined a total of $17,000 for three code violations by chair umpire Carlos Ramos. She lost the match in straight sets — 6-2 and 6-4 — to Japan’s Osaka. Williams later went on to call out the blatantly unfair treatment that women face in sports, explaining how an umpire has never taken a game from a male tennis player or claimed “verbal abuse” for exhibiting the same emotion.
Williams is right.
When British tennis player Andy Murray kicked a ball at an umpire’s head in 2016, he suffered no consequences and was even jokingly praised for his “football skills” by media outlets.
American tennis player Andy Roddick was called for a foot fault in 2010 and repeatedly harassed the lineswoman during the set. After the set, it was the lineswoman who was replaced even though she made the correct call.
Roddick who was never penalized.
Would Williams be treated the same way by officials if she exhibited that behavior? The answer is no, she would not and she was not treated equally at Saturday’s match.
The juxtaposition of these instances to Williams’ is glaring.
Tennis umpires have expressed their distaste with Williams’ behavior by announcing their potential boycott of her matches. The Guardian reported that umpires are also so outraged over the Women’s Tennis Association and the United States Tennis Association showing support for Williams that they are considering forming a union.
While these umpires do indeed have the right to disagree with Williams’ behavior, they are, again, showing a blatant disregard for the double standard shown on Saturday and throughout tennis’ history.
A political cartoon drawn by Mark Knight portrays Williams pitching a fit on the court and exaggerated her features to make her look overweight and like a child. Why is it that when female athletes show outrage for a call, they are labeled as disrespectful, childlike and hysterical, but when male athletes show outrage for a call, they are simply passionate?
The umpires who are threatening to boycott Williams’ matches should consider the sport’s history with an unfair double standard. Perhaps Williams, one of the greatest tennis players of all time, can then too just be considered passionate.