Was Serena Williams Right to React the Way She Did?
Well... where should I start? The events of the Women's US Open Tennis Final have created a storm of media attention for all of the wrong reasons, but was Williams right or wrong?
Now of course this is up to opinion, however I believe the 23 time Grand Slam Winner should've dealt with the moment with a lot more professionalism and dignity, especially given her experience and her status as not only one of the most incredible and high achieving black athletes of all time, but as a mother. She is a role model for so many people however this is not a action that should be repeated or condoned.
I am a firm believer in feminism, equal rights and standing up for what you believe in, but the nature in which William's voiced, or shouted, was simply wrong.
The beginning of the incident occurred when the umpire, Carlos Ramos, warned Williams after her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, had coached her from the stands, an act that is not allowed. Williams protested but with no avail. Her coach later admitted to coaching. Strike one. Then in the second set, already a set down and 3-2 down in games, Williams smashed up her racquet due to frustration (side note: that is seriously impressive, how strong is she?). Ramos then deducted a point for this conduct. Strike two. When Williams' opponent led 4-3 in the second set, just two games off winning, Williams proceeded to shout degrading and unsportsmanlike words at Ramos. She hurled words including calling him a 'thief' and a 'liar'. This bombardment of abuse led to Serena being docked a game and Osaka, her opponent, taking a 5-3 lead and only a game away from her first Grand Slam win. Strike three Serena, you're out.
An umpire, a referee, or whoever governs the game demands respect. As an athlete, one of the components of any sport is to accept the referee's decision, certainly not shout back, something that Williams should've learnt by now.
Osaka went on to win the match but unfortunately none of the news was on her, in most cases of a big name sports athlete, they always find a way of shifting the spotlight onto themselves... ahem... Cristiano Ronaldo... ahem.
The big topic the next day was the discussion of whether the umpire was sexist and would've done the same actions had Williams been a man. Many members of the tennis community have stated that they are proud of Serena for standing up for women's rights including legend of the game Billie Jean King. Is there a difference between what a man and a woman can say to the umpire? Williams argued that men have said worse and haven't been penalised as bad, most notably John McEnroe's 'you cannot be serious' rant. McEnroe received a penalty point for this whereas Williams was docked a game. However Williams had already had two warnings, and had not stopped her poor behaviour. As well as this, of all sports, tennis is one of the most gender equal elite sports in the world. As of 2007, all grand slams offer men and women the same money prize, although the sponsorships are very diverse. Perhaps the game is sexist and there needs to be changes, but that doesn't make anything Williams did acceptable. She was losing, couldn't handle that, lost her cool, and rationalised it by saying she was 'standing up for women's rights'. Not only did this ruin the game but spoiled Osaka's presentation of the trophy in which she got booed. What should've been a happy memory, tarnished.
Now I don't mean to dampen Williams' incredible career and the feat of reaching the final only months after having a baby, however I believe she acted carelessly and without thinking which has led to unnecessary uproar. She has since been fined $17,000 and apologised via media to Osaka.
Finally, I believe it takes a true champion to be able to see an opponent lift a trophy in front of you, and you to take it graciously, but work hard to win it back. I hope this was a form self-reflection for Williams as she has lost the respect of many across the world.