Too Much of a Person - The Ball is Never in Her Court

The Ball is Never in Her Court

Naomi Osaka is the first Japanese citizen to ever win a Grand Slam title. An incredible feat for the half Japanese half Haitian athlete at just 20 years old. Unfortunately the sexist and racist debates that have surrounded Osaka and her opponent, Serena Williams’ finals match since its conclusion on 8th September have distracted from this monumental moment in her career.

I am of course referring to arguably the hottest topic in sexism, racism and the sports world right now, the altercation between Serena Williams and umpire, Carlos Ramos. Firstly, I can completely understand how some opinions may feel her actions were lacking in sportsmanship and on some level I would have to agree. Secondly, the sexism that was demonstrated in the treatment of Williams is glaringly obvious.

There have been numerous occasions I have felt disappointed and let down as a tennis fan when players have lost their cool, smashed their racket, lashed out at an umpire and shouted and sworn in frustration – I am Scottish so you can imagine the amount of times I have gone through this as an obligatory Andy Murray fan. It is no secret that he has had his fair share of “outbursts” and eruption of emotions on the court. Yet I have never seen such media frenzy or backlash regarding any of his behaviour.

Have we ever seen a sexist or racist cartoon pop up of Andy Murray post-emotional outburst? I think not. The only time anything sexist appears in the media regarding Andy Murray is to do with his female coach.

The discrimination in the media’s portrayal of the incident is summed up through Mark Knights’ depiction in this sexist and racially charged cartoon.

Source: Twitter

He was defended by The Herald Sun in a statement on twitter ‘It had nothing to do with gender or race.’ Cool….so why is Serena characterized as a racial stereotype, the angry black woman, and Naomi’s skin lightened and her hair now blonde…are you that f**king stupid to not see that, is it IMPOSSIBLE to draw a cartoon that can depict your opinion without being racist or sexist or are you in fact just a misogynistic racist? Asking for a friend.

Zeba Blay’s article ‘The Whitewashing of Naomi Osaka’ for the Huffington Post perfectly captures everything that is wrong with this cartoon.

But we should all just ‘let it go’ right? A recurring phrase that has appeared in too many articles for my liking.

Williams should have just ‘let it go’; referring to the fact that Williams repeatedly engaged the umpire, stating she would never cheat and then furthermore asking for an apology.

Why should she just let it go?

This is her career, her reputation and her passion. I believe she had every right to express her emotions, albeit I don’t believe they were delivered in the correct way considering the sporting world stage. Threats and accusatory name-calling are not the way to go. HOWEVER…earlier in the tournament Andy Murray blew up at an umpire accusing his opponent of talking to his coach during the heat break, swearing at the umpire and in the process accusing them of not doing their job correctly – punishment? None.

Essentially amongst all the noise the most important POINT IS BEING MISSED. The conversation is not about the actual behaviour; the conversation is about the blatant double standards of the discipline dished out. Men are freely allowed to show their emotions on the court and not be penalised yet the same cannot be said for women. The more Williams spoke the more the umpire was looking for a way to ‘shut her up’, ‘stifle her emotions’ …make her ‘let it go.’

Martina Navratilova, an eighteen time grand slam singles champion, commented to fox news , ‘there is a double standard for women when it comes to how bad behavior is punished—and not just in tennis.’ But she concluded: “I don’t believe it’s a good idea to apply a standard of ‘If men can get away with it, women should be able to, too.’ Rather, I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this: What is the right way to behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?”

Are we asking to ‘get away with it?’ I think not. Women around the world, and I am positive Williams in this situation too, are not looking to ‘get away with it’ just because men do, we are simply asking screaming at the top of our voices to be treated the same. If a woman is penalized for something then a man should be too.

There have of course been many opposing opinions in the media countering Williams sexism claims with one tennis star Jamie Murray going as far as stating to BBC Sport he felt it was ‘a bit far-fetched’ to say men are treated differently. We beg to differ.

At the same event, the US open 2018, I repeat 2018! The women’s double champions Ashleigh Barty and Coco Vandeweghe were denied their once in a lifetime moment to thank their friends, family and fans during their award ceremony by tournament officials. This career inspiring moment was denied to them because the men’s single finals could not possibly have been delayed.

The organizers were unable to show respect to A. the male finalists, who I am sure given the choice would have happily started 10 minutes late, and most of all B. respect to their female champions who had the right to thank their supporters just as the men did. On top of this French World number 31 Alize Cornet was given a code violation for changing her shirt on court during a break between sets. THIS ISN’T EVEN AN ACTUAL CODE VIOLATION. Oh and I’m not sure if you have noticed but men consistently sit topless during their breaks, not seen any code violations handed out to them.

If you are unable to see a pattern not only from the US open but at other tennis opens – I’m looking at you French Open and ‘black cat suit gate’ – and considering 30% of other sports still don’t give out equal prize money - then I really do pray for you.

Now, tell me again that what happened to Williams, Osaka, Barty, Vandeweghe and Cornet at the US Open ‘had nothing to do with sexism’…..I dare you.

By Nate Beeler (Columbus Dispatch/ 2018)

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