Naomi Osaka made history by becoming the first Japanese born woman to win the US Open. But the headlines following the event are hardly focusing on Osaka. Instead, the discussion has largely focused on Serena Williams who suffered a “sexist” umpire.

It’s pathetic, really. 

If you missed it, you can watch the whole ordeal here:

Williams was first dinged for coaching when her coach repeatedly made hand motions that looked an awful lot like he was instructing her to get to the net. “If he gives me a thumbs up, he’s telling me to come on,” Williams told umpire Carlos Ramos.

Too bad for Williams, Mouratoglou (her coach) admitted he was coaching. “Everybody does it — you all know it,” Mouratoglou said after the match.

Ticked that she was being outplayed, Williams broke her racket in the second match, drawing a point loss. That’s when Williams went off the rails. She yelled at Ramos, told him he owed her an apology and called him a thief. So, Ramos called another code violation.

The referee was summoned and Williams claimed she was being penalized because she was a woman. Williams was later fined $17,000 for her series of outbursts.

Williams’ mastery of the game is irrefutable. She has the record, talent, skill, and stats to prove she’s the most talented woman to ever play the game. She’s also known for her temper and for her penchant for lashing out at umpires.

See 2009 when Williams threatened a line judge for calling a foot fault:

According to Sports Illustrated, “Williams unleashed a string of asterisks and ampersands and threats, the worst of them involving asphyxiation of Tsurubuchi via tennis ball. Having already been assessed a warning for an earlier breach of etiquette, Williams was penalized a point for her eruption, ending the match.”

And there was 2011:

“You’re a hater and you’re unattractive inside,” she told the umpire.

Nevertheless, Williams’ “loss” has completely overshadowed Osaka’s win and with the help of progressive outlets who don’t seem to mind depriving Osaka the airtime she’s earned.

Williams herself played the sexist card when appealing to the referee.

I’m so old, I remember when it was commonplace for children, kids, teenagers, and really, everyone, to be repeatedly reminded that the actions of others are never justification to behave badly or treat others poorly. There’s no room for individual responsibility in victim culture though.

This cartoon and the discussion surrounding it are a perfect microcosm of the whole affair.

Of course, the cartoonist was repeatedly accused of sexism, to which he responded:

And then of racism, because obvs.

The ends of Osaka’s hair are well, blonde.

Then there’s Richard Ings, a former umpire who took time to write an op-ed explaining why Ramos was absolutely right in how he handled a nasty situation. The excerpt is lengthy, but an important and much-needed perspective on the matter, which has been convoluted by an overlay of social justice.

First, on the technical aspects of the game:

I should know. My welcome to the job match happened at the 1987 US Open. I was the chair umpire for the fourth-round stadium court match between John McEnroe and Slobodan Zivojinovic where I issued a warning, point penalty and a game penalty against McEnroe.

The game penalty, for a string of obscenities directed at me, came at 4-5, costing McEnroe the set and making the match one set all.

The memories and scars of my welcome to the job match are fresh even more than 30 years later. Ramos will be going through much the same emotions.

As someone that has sat in the umpire’s chair in front of a raucous full house US Open crowd and been tested under fire in front of a global television audience, I have a great deal of empathy and admiration for Ramos and his officiating.

In the course of this match, Ramos issued a warning, a point penalty and a game penalty against Williams for violations of the grand slam code of conduct.

The warning was triggered when Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, made clear and repeated coaching gestures to his player on the court.

For a professional umpire, keeping an eye on the coach is standard practice. All coaches know that such hand gestures are a breach of the code of conduct.

The point penalty was triggered when Williams destroyed her racquet on the court after having her serve broken. Apart from the bad look for the sport of a player violently breaking a racquet on court, it is also dangerous to on-court officials, ball persons and front-row spectators as shards go flying.

All players know that destroying a racquet on the court is a mandatory code violation.

The game penalty was triggered after Williams, in a lengthy tirade, loudly accused the umpire of being a “thief” stealing points from her. Ramos let the tirade slide, showing great composure until Williams accused him of cheating.

All players know that publicly attacking the honesty of the umpire is going to result in an immediate code violation.

Ramos made absolutely the correct calls as a chair umpire in each of these three incidents.

And secondly, on why Ramos was neither racist nor sexist in doing his job:

Williams is the greatest female tennis player to ever play the game. Her playing record on the court is legendary. I can never truly appreciate the real sexism and racism that Williams will have absolutely faced in her life and career. Her iconic status speaking out on racism and sexism off the court is inspiring. She is a positive role model in every sense.

However, Williams faced neither sexism or racism in this grand slam final. We should not let her record, as glowing as it is, overshadow the fact that on this day, in this match Williams was wrong.

The decisions made by Ramos had nothing to do with sexism or racism. They had everything to do with observing clear breaches of the grand slam code of conduct and then having the courage to call them without fear or favour.

This match was not Serena Williams’ finest hour. She lost to a better player and in the process lost her cool in spectacular fashion. It is Williams who owes an apology to Ramos, not the other way around.

Because it needs repeating — it is possible to disagree with someone or their behavior and it have nothing whatsoever to do with their skin color, race, ethnicity, gender, or overal character.

Facts don’t matter. Behavior doesn’t either. Personal responsibility matters not. That a young woman made history in an incredibly upset by outplaying one of the game’s best players? Meh.

What matters is that Williams, a champion of women’s rights and other nice progressive things was penalized by a man for her awful behavior, or so the narrative has explained.

And left in the dust is an incredible rising talent who will forever question her most excellent win.


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