It was without a doubt one of the most memorable U.S. Open women’s finals in the sport’s modern history.
Naomi Osaka gave Japan its first tennis Grand Slam singles champion, but post-match headlines centered on Serena Williams — particularly after she was fined $17,000 for three code violations that included coaching, breaking her racket and the “verbal abuse” of chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
The conversations surrounding the event were polarizing, with some coming to Williams’ defense and others criticizing what they believed was unsportsmanlike conduct from the 23-time Grand Slam winner.
Former world No. 1-ranked tennis star Billie Jean King addressed the treatment of women — specifically women of color — in a Sunday op-ed for The Washington Post, where she praised Williams for standing up to the double standard that unfairly punishes women as well as brought up an “abuse of power” in the sport.
Taking to Twitter the day of the match, King explained: “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical,’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken,’ & there are no repercussions.”
Fellow American tennis player Andy Roddick slammed the chair umpire, calling it the “worst refereeing I’ve ever seen.”
Martina Navratilova, who also previously held the title of world No. 1, wrote an opinion piece in The New York Times that argued against the “huge double standard” in tennis. However, she added that “we cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with.”
Recalling Williams’ actions at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, Navratilova said she exhibited “the sort of behavior that no one should be engaging in on the court. There have been many times when I was playing that I wanted to break my racket into a thousand pieces. Then I thought about the kids watching. And I grudgingly held on to that racket.”
In response to the controversy, tennis’ governing body, the International Tennis Federation, released a statement today in support of the umpire’s decision to penalize Williams.
“It is understandable that this high-profile and regrettable incident should provoke debate,” the ITF wrote. “At the same time, it is important to remember that Mr. Ramos undertook his duties as an official according to the relevant rule book and acted at all times with professionalism and integrity.”
Although a divisive debate surrounded the finals itself, a cartoon published in Australian’s Herald Sun today appeared to unite many who claimed it was blatant discrimination against people of color.
In the drawing, illustrator Mark Knight likened Williams to a child throwing a tantrum — with a pacifier close by on the court — as the umpire begged Osaka to “just let her win.”
The cartoon drew comparisons to the Jim Crow caricatures in the 19th and 20th centuries, with “The View” co-host Sunny Hostin and novelist J.K. Rowling calling out its racist and sexist message.
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