by Omolola Suleiman
Millions gather around to witness the long awaited tournament between one of America’s most venerated athletes, Serena Williams and up-and-coming tennis professional, Naomi Osaka in this year’s U.S. open final. However, what was once looked forward to as a fair duel between two talented female prodigies soon turned into a hostile and uncomfortable situation for all as Williams was involved in a fierce dispute with chair umpire, Carlos Ramos. The fight ended with Williams slamming her racquet onto the court destroying it and Ramos issuing her three code violations. Social media was in a frenzy following the events of the day with many questioning if there is a double standard in professional sports. Many want to know the reason behind why men can get away with bad sportsmanship on the field, but females get called out for it and heavily punished.
In a time filled with political tension, debates like this one continue to add fuel to the fire. Williams is right in some aspects of her argument. There have been times where men have displayed bad behavior on competition grounds and have escaped all forms of punishment. Some are even celebrated and acknowledged for their angry outbursts. An example of such would be John McEnroe who has a history of throwing his racquet and cursing his opponents as well as linesmen. This behavior has him known as the bad boy of the tennis world, a name that is looked upon as a affirmative description. It is not right that the difference in treatment is as a direct result of gender. While the men in the tennis world get praised and looked upon as a hero for their outbursts, females like Serena Williams are fined thousand of dollars and are called ‘hysterical’ or ‘dramatic’.
However, this explanation cannot excuse the absolutely unsportsmanlike behavior that Williams displayed on the court that day. Regardless of what was said or done, Williams should have maintained a professional appearance until after the game was complete. When the competition had finished, she could have then went to someone of higher authority and expressed in a respectable manner why she believed that the outcome was unfair. Williams could have even spoken back to the Ramos, but have done so in a way that showed everyone that she wanted to make a change to the double standard but in a way befitting to all.
Instead, Williams showed to all her fans that look up to her that when things don’t go your way it is ok to get angry and engage it outrageous behavior. This should go towards the men of professional sports as well because there is a respectful and professional way to handle disputes while at the same time standing up for what’s right.
With the spotlight mainly on Williams because of the incident, many are forgetting the true star of that night, Naomi Osaka who in her early 20s defeated a well-decorated professional with a score of 6-4. The entire situation proved to be a major disappointment to her as well because instead of celebrating her big win, she was forced to face the wrath of Williams die hard fans who blamed her for the event in its entirety. Williams took the value in winning away from Osaka who was one of the people in sports she looked up to. Osaka will never be able to revel in the victory of her success without associating the major backlash that occurred because of it.
Regardless of what happened, even if there was no trace of sexism or anger in the tournament, Osaka would have still took home a win. She is a very talented athlete and Williams should embrace that rather than pushing all the blame onto one side. As someone who came from very humble beginnings herself, Williams should have understood how reacting like that would make her young opponent feel.
It is apparent, that celebrities now have to watch what they say and do because the cameras are constantly being pointed at them. The public was shocked to see Roseanne Barr lose her award winning tv show in a matter of hours after posting a negative response to former aide, Valerie Jarrett. Hollywood stars can no longer escape the consequences of their bad actions as the public has reached its maximum on tolerance.
Serena Williams was caught engaging in such bad actions and was punished as she should be. The results of her actions serve as examples to anyone who would dare think to act like she did on a field, court, or any athletic grounds. Let’s all hope in the future that all genders and races will all face equal action.