Questions To Consider

  • Would a male tennis star be treated the same as Serena Williams was?
  • What do you think of Serena Williams’ reaction to all this?

What We Think

We’ve all known tennis champion Serena Williams is an amazing badass for a long time, but that strength was recently put to the test during the US Open in the Final match against Naomi Osaka. Actually, it had been going on during the whole US Open.

It started when she wore a special “catsuit” created to prevent blood clots (which had almost killed her) for the French Open. This was rejected by the French Open officials, who started “One must respect the game and the place,” and she showed up in a black tutu for the US Open that seemed like a silly caricature of what women players are “supposed to” wear. 

She then protested an umpire’s call — definitely nothing worse than what the male players do, according to tennis fans — and was fined $17,000. My favorite part was when she said:

“You owe me an apology! I have a daughter and I stand for what’s right for her, and I’ve never cheated in my life.”

Watch the whole thing transpire and tell me you don’t feel something for her:

This soured the match for both players and was roundly called unfair. Naomi won, but both opponents were crying. Of course, Serena was a sweetheart to Naomi.

But then Serena just couldn’t catch a break! An Australian cartoonist created an awful, clearly racist cartoon that portrayed her as a Sambo-like negress and her opponent as a white, thin, blonde girl (Osaka is a woman of color). It’s so totally offensive that we’re not even going to link to it here. 

In the press conference afterward, clearly downtrodden and disappointed, Serena said:

I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t say [the umpire]’s a thief, because I thought he took a game from me. But I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say “thief” and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said “thief.”

See this video, which starts at 8:45.

What we should all be asking is: Why do women, and especially black women, have to “overcome” all of this pushback? Serena is a competitor at the top of her sport and should be able to focus on training and winning, not on fighting back against officials. The white, male officials must not like that she’s a big black woman (all three of those words may be the problem) and she’s not “in her place.”… which would probably be “not on the court” in the first place, if they had their way. How strong do black women need to be to succeed?

In fact, we’re thinking maybe the officials at the US Open should be over there in our Gallery of Offenders. How about you? 

— Jennifer Berger

Where We Saw It

ESPN, September 8, 2018