unfair treatment displayed toward Serena Williams at the US Open is
further proof that, in tennis, women are subjected to a double
standard. That standard is particularly glaring in the case of female
athletes of color.
days after the announcement that Colin Kaepernick is the face of
Nike's "Just Do It" 30th anniversary campaign, Williams, a
black tennis star, was punished for displaying justifiable anger when
she called out the umpire for his on-the-court-sexism. She was then
with a $17,000 fine, $10,000 of it for her remarks to the umpire.
match should have been a cause for celebration, coming over 60 years
since Althea Gibson became
to compete in the US Nationals and win the US Open, Wimbledon and the
French Open. Gibson faced racism as a trailblazing black woman, with
hecklers at her first tennis match in Forest Hills on August 29,
"Beat the n-----!"
forward to 2018 and Williams was matched against Naomi Osaka, a
Japanese and Haitian American player who, like Serena and Venus, is
part of a tennis powerhouse family with her sister Mari. That Naomi
had the chance to play against her idol was overshadowed by the
racist and sexist officiating of the tennis tournament.
Saturday's match, umpire Carlos Ramos issued
Williams a warning for allegedly receiving illegal coaching through
hand gestures. Though her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, admitted
Williams denied she had cheated and demanded Ramos apologize. Then
Williams broke her racket out of frustration over losing a serve, for
which Ramos imposed a one-point penalty. Williams responded by
calling Ramos a "thief" for stealing a point from her.
lost the match to Osaka and took the defeat with grace, but not
without making a statement. At a press conference, Williams said she
is fighting for women's rights and women's equality, calling out
Ramos for his sexism. "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," Williams said.
players have notably found fault with Ramos. In 2016, he even accused
Williams' older sister, Venus,
of receiving coaching during a match.
in tennis have
Ramos and say he has been tough on male as well as female players.)
who returned to tennis after childbirth, has faced an uphill battle
in recent weeks. More specifically, she has been policed
for her blackness.
She has faced unfair
drug testing and
about her body. And she has been banned from wearing her
Wakanda-esque black catsuit at the French Open - which was designed
to reduce her risk of blood clotting, the very issue that almost
claimed her life during childbirth.
perhaps the greatest tennis player in the world pays a $17,000 price
for her anger. Why? Because to many, including likely the tennis
authorities that be, Williams' reaction affirms the racial stereotype
of a black woman who dares to speak her mind - loudmouthed, uncouth
and dare we say "ghetto."
course, sports history is replete with men who have shown rage on the
court, and not only avoided punishment but received accolades. The
antics, outbursts and temper tantrums of John
are just a few examples. And male tennis players, such as James
have admitted to
saying worse than Williams did - without suffering penalties. As
Billie Jean King tweeted,
"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."
double standard is nothing new, but it is receiving more attention in
the #MeToo era. The repercussions go far beyond the tennis world. As
Sen. Kamala Harris, D-California, asked
Judge Brett Kavanaugh
at his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in a discussion on Roe v.
Wade, "Can you think of any laws that give the government power
to make decisions about the male body?"
penalty against Serena Williams is evidence that black women still
face an uphill battle, and we have a lot of work left to do if we are
to be a society of equals.
This commentary was originally published by CNN.com