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Serena Williams' U.S. Open controversy: Know Your Value community speaks up

After the tennis star accused the umpire of sexism when he penalized her at the U.S. Open final, Mika Brzezinski asked the Know Your Value community if Williams was treated unfairly – and many responded.
by KYV Editorial Staff /
Image: Serena Williams women's singles finals match
Serena Williams argues with the chair umpire during the women's finals match against Naomi Osaka of Japan at the U.S. Open tennis tournament on Sept. 8, 2018, in New York.Greg Allen / AP
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The prevalence of sexism in sports is a reality many female athletes face during their career. For tennis champion Serena Williams – who was up for a 24th Grand Slam title at the U.S. Open Saturday and lost to rising star Naomi Osaka – she called out what she believed was a blatant act of sexism after the match’s umpire accused her of receiving coaching signals from the stands and penalized her. Williams got another code violation for throwing her racket and went on to call the umpire a “thief” and a “liar,” which resulted in a game penalty for verbal abuse.

“There are men [tennis players] out here that do a lot worse,” she told the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, “but because I’m a woman, because I’m a woman, you’re going to take this away from me? That is not right.”

During the trophy ceremony, Williams urged the crowd to stop booing and celebrate Osaka’s historic win, but the moment was overshadowed by the drama that unfolded between Ramos and Williams on the court. As a result, there has been an outpouring of opinion from tennis legends, sports critics, fellow athletes and avid fans on the complicated circumstances involved.

According to USA TODAY, Ramos did respond briefly to the Tribuna Expresso in his native Portugal. "I'm fine, given the circumstances," he told the publication on Tuesday. “It's a delicate situation, but 'a la carte' arbitration does not exist. Do not worry about me!" The International Tennis Federation supported him this week as well, stating he acted with "professionalism and integrity."

At Know Your Value, the fight toward achieving gender equality in sports — and in every profession — is critical, as well as making your voice heard through effective, meaningful communication. So Know Your Value founder Mika Brzezinski posed the question to this diverse community Monday: Were the penalties imposed against Serena Williams appropriate, or was she being treated unfairly?

Here’s what some in the Know Your Value community had to say:

“Standing up for herself and disagreeing in a way that isn't demure, makes some people's head explode. She plays with passion and gives her whole heart. UNFORTUNATELY, because she is female she was treated differently. I know full well they will have 25 different games and scenarios that a male behaved same or similar and no deductions or fines.”

- Stephanie Carlsen

“Serena may have felt justified about her anger and she was well within her rights to protest, but sometimes, you have to pick your battles. That said, emotions ran high and precipitated a loss of control = poor sportsmanship.”

- Arlene Robillard

“No, this wasn't a sexist double standard. There was cheating (her coach admitted it). She broke her racket. This ump has given out these same penalties to male players. It's disingenuous to ascribe a motive to the ump for no other reason than she was frustrated and didn't like the call. I love Serena. But she's human, and she made a mistake. She is not bigger than the rules or the game.

The real sexism here is that the coach is getting off scott-free. Serena pays the penalty for something he did. He admitted doing it. And no one says a word about him.”

- Angela Smith

“I understand her reaction and anger. It is very frustrating as a [woman]. The condescending attitude towards her was out of line. Naomi understands ... she is going to experience [the] same injustice. All that said, and it is because she is a woman – but her being a black woman means she sees this more often and in more circumstances. It is perfectly fine for her to be and show anger. The ref was wrong ... he was targeting her and sometimes we just have to call it out.”

- Lisa DePietro Lynn

“I totally support Serena's views and I understand her frustration but her behavior on the courts was unacceptable. She ruined Osaka's moment of victory. Serena allowed her emotions to take her focus off the game while inciting the crowd. The court is not the place for expressing frustration so aggressively. Players are expected to exercise self-control and follow the rules. She could had spoken about those issues on her conference, on Twitter and through so many other outlets. [Umpires], on the other hand, need to be consistent 100% in applying the rules.”

- R Delania Linares

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