Japan’s Naomi Osaka made history by becoming the first woman from Japan to win the U.S. Open. Osaka played a tough match, but despite her victory the 20-year-old was unable to enjoy her celebration. This was largely due to controversy surrounding her match with tennis great Serena Williams. It began when 35-year-old Williams became irate at a chair umpire for calling a penalty after observing Williams’ coach gesturing to her from the sidelines. After Williams had words with the umpire, the match continued only for Williams to receive another code violation for breaking her racket by slamming it to the ground. She then got into a shouting match with the umpire, calling him a “thief” and a “liar.” This caused her third code violation and loss of a point.
Serena Williams fell victim to her own entitlement and behavior. Naturally, upon her loss to Osaka, Williams went on a tangent about how sexism caused her to lose. The tennis superstar claimed that umpire Carlos Ramos exhibited sexism against her for being a woman expressing her emotions. While Williams acknowledges she earned the code violations, she argued that a man would not receive such calls. Her outbursts and tantrums effectively caused champion Naomi Osaka visible distress. Though she attempted to congratulate Osaka following the match, Serena Williams continued shifting blame for her outrageous behavior.
While it may be true that women and men have different sets of standards in professional athletics, it’s also true that Serena Williams wasn’t treated unfairly. She simply discovered an umpire who wasn’t going to cater to millionaire superstars. Serena Williams is a household name and frequently makes her voice heard over social justice issues, something she exploited in order to deflect her poor sportsmanship.
Rather than to gracefully concede her loss due to her own behavior, Williams continued blasting the umpire to the media. During a press conference, she conjured up some tears and proclaimed herself a champion for women’s rights. The bold statement was also shared by the official Women’s March Twitter account and the pink hats came out in abundance on social media. The argument that a man “would have” gotten away with such behavior does nothing but highlight that Serena Williams exhibited poor behavior. She was penalized and ultimately fined $17,000. It was a U.S. Open finals match, not an exhibition game.
With the stakes being higher, it makes sense that officials would make strict calls. Serena Williams’ coach later confirmed that he was giving her signals, something Williams adamantly denied throughout the exchange with Ramos. I can’t think of a single game where players would get away with verbally accosting officials. Men have been called out on these same penalties, so that argument is completely ridiculous. Sadly, the champion Naomi Osaka witnessed this behavior from a woman who was likely her idol and felt compelled to apologize for how the match turned out. Serena Williams didn’t suffer injustice perpetrated by women-hating officials, she suffered being brought back down to earth and being held accountable for her own behavior.