Serena Williams is not above the rules

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Serena Williams

THE fallout from Serena Williams’ US Open tirade continues as tennis umpires are reportedly threatening to boycott matches that Williams is playing in, and unionize.

Williams gave chair umpire Carlos Ramos a verbal lashing after he issued her three violations — a warning about illegal coaching, racket abuse and verbal abuse. Williams eventually lost the match in straight sets to 20-year-old Naomi Osaka of Japan.

Williams has received an onslaught of backlash and support after accusing Ramos of sexism. She and her proponents accuse Ramos of holding her to a different standard because she’s a woman, that she wouldn’t have been penalized that harshly if she were a male player.

It is doubtful that things would have been different if Williams were a man. Ramos is an extremely experienced tennis umpire and one of the sports most respected. Being a fastidious rule monger and a gold badge umpire, he was just following the rules. The first violation came when Ramos ruled that Williams was receiving illegal coaching from her coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, which the coach, sitting in the stands, later admitted to doing. The situation continued to deteriorate when Williams received a second violation when she smashed her racket in frustration. She lost a point due to the violation, causing the player to argue with the umpire again about the initial penalty. The third violation — verbal abuse — came when she called the umpire a “thief,” leading to an automatic game loss.

Williams’ rant as she yelled at Ramos deserves scrutiny: “You will never, ever, ever be on another court of mine as long as you live. You are the liar. When are you going to give me my apology? You owe me an apology. Say it. Say you’re sorry... And you stole a point from me. You’re a thief, too!”

How can this outburst go unpunished? On what basis is Williams being defended? She herself will most likely admit she crossed several red lines, yet her argument seems to be that since men have gotten away with saying worse things to an umpire, receiving nothing more than a slap on the wrist as punishment, then she is somehow entitled to act the same way. Her thinking is that men do this all the time, so why can’t she and other women?

Because when it comes to the rules, there should be no difference between men and women, between superstars and lesser lights. And if there is, that should stop. There must be consistency across the board, and all players should show respect to the officials on court.

As for the umpires, boycotting Williams’ matches is not the answer; there will always be some umpire ready for the task. Talk of a union is more constructive. Umpires are technically not allowed to talk to the press. They don’t have any independent means of representation and are employed by the governing bodies. If talking to the media is not allowed, and governing bodies are speaking out against them, as is the case with Williams, how will they defend themselves the next time there is a clash involving Williams or any other player?

It’s true that this was the final of a Grand Slam event, and that Williams was gunning for Grand Slam No. 24, tying with Margaret Court for the most ever. The stakes were extremely high, but that’s no excuse for William’s behavior and language. Since Williams is regarded as the greatest female tennis player and perhaps the greatest athlete of all time, she wields immense influence over young girls and boys who see her as a role model.

Not gone unnoticed is William’s railing came when she was losing, and to a virtual unknown. Williams should confess that her imminent defeat was another reason that brought on her rage.


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