If you have ever played a sport, and I’m not talking about for fun, but seriously; If you have ever lived and breathed a sport so much that you know it intimately; If you have ever worked so hard to be as great as you can be in that sport that you would never even attempt to cheat because you would rather lose having given your all, then to cheat to win, then you may have an idea of how Serena Williams felt this past weekend at the US Open when the umpire accused her of being coached by her coach from the stands.
Lots of people have had lots to say on the matter. Some have sided with Sarena and others have sided against her. Some have said that it was “Racist & Sexist”, and some do not know what to think. I did not get to watch to watch the match because we had to run errands to get ready for the week, the kids had a dance class…So, like some, I became aware of the incident via word of mouth and various social media outlets. I watched all of the clips and read multiple articles before forming an opinion. After reading all of the articles, I wondered how many people have been fined in tennis and for what? Sarena came up. I asked Google about similar issues in the past, and only men came up. I asked Google how many times this specific umpire fined someone for the same reason, and Venus came up, and I thought that was interesting.
Eleven years ago, this umpire accused Venus Williams of the same thing, and Venus had a similar (albeit far less intense) response to this same umpire. You see, for two little black girls who grew up in Compton, CA, who practiced day and night with only their father to coach them, who invested so much in themselves and their talent, who worked so hard to be taken seriously and had the audacity to gain respect in a sport where (at the time) there were no women on the courts that looked like them so they had to become the faces for the next generation, like Naomi Osaka, to look up to… These two women were the only ones this umpire accused of being coached and I just cannot help but wonder, does race play an issue here. Not from a preferential treatment perspective, because both Sarena and Naomi are women of color, and yet, I can’t help but to wonder.
Did sexism play a role? Absolutely! I believe it did. Sarena herself didn’t even call this racism, she said “For me, it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women.” Twelve-time grand slam singles winner Billy Jean King said in a two-part tweet:
“Several things went very wrong during the US Open women’s finals today,” King wrote. “Coaching on every point should be allowed in tennis. It isn’t, and as a result, a player was penalized for the actions of her coach. This should not happen.” She continued, “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ & and there are no repercussions. Thank you @serenawilliams for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”
No matter how you approach the situation, there is a double standard for women and men, with men always receiving preferential treatment. Even men will compete with each other in the workplace and/or degrade one another, and if one man speaks out towards another, it is viewed as two men having a heated discussion. They are viewed as being passionate about what they do, and may even gain more respect. But, you remove one of these men and replace her with a woman, and the woman is painted as confrontational, sensitive, and emotional. Even other women seeking acceptance will join in and ridicule a fellow woman for her behavior. Smiling to your face, agreeing, but being disapproving in the public eye.
Anyone, constantly suffering from unfair treatment because of how they look, or because of their sex, is bound to have a breaking point. A moment where they say “…enough is enough, I can’t take it anymore! I have to say something and maybe I will get into trouble, but maybe I will set a precedent for the next person.” Well, the tennis court is Sarena Williams workplace, and last Saturday was her breaking point. She spoke from the heart, and I commend her for that.
Some have questioned the timing of the incident and choice of setting. Was it the right time or place? You see, there is another heroine in this story who, as a result of this incident, did not get to live out her childhood dream as she had always dreamed. Twenty-year-old Naomi Osaka viewed Sarena as a role model growing up, so getting to play against her in the US open was a dream come true. Many people who watched the match agree that Naomi played a better game that day, and likely would have won even without the point being taken away from Sarena. She, like Serena (and possibly because of Sarena) trained hard her whole life to get to this point, and she played her best match that day and deserved the honor and accolade that comes with winning. However, the tears that were shed on that day were tears of sadness and not joy, as the young woman shielded her face from a booing crowd, uncertain if they were towards her or the situation. She even apologized for winning before thanking her role model for letting her play with her.
She exuded a graciousness that should not go unnoticed, in a moment that would have been awkward for anyone. But, nonetheless, her moment was taken away from her as a result of the events and that is unfortunate. This, however, is a situation that could have been avoided on so many levels and for so many reasons. This was not the first time Sarena lost after all. Sloan Stevens beat Sarena and went on to trash talk after the fact, and Sarena let it go. But some things one cannot let go. My heart broke for Naomi Osaka every time I watched the clip of her shileding her tears, apologizing for being great, and thanking someone she looked up to for so long. My heart broke as a mother and I am sure Sarena’s did as well. Naomi is great. Her talent is undeniable and this is not the last time she will defeat amazing athletes because the world now sees her as one as well. But, everytime I tried to put myself in Sarena’s shoes and asked myself if I would have waited for a better time, I cannot say that I would have. I know what it is like to know that your children are watching, that other children who look up to you are watching, to want to always put forth you best foot with your blood curdling inside from being so upset but not wanting to let it show. I know what it is like to finally have that moment when you say “ENOUGH! I am not perfect, I am human and I get upset and feel wronged and hurt also, and I cannot apologize for having feelings as well.”
Whether wearing a catsuit post-baby to honor all of the mothers who dared to be fierce post-baby…
Or, speaking out about the lack of access to exceptional healthcare and especially birthing care for women of color, or standing up to not just an umpire but society at large who want to make her out to be an emotional woman for standing up for herself,
Sarena Williams is definitely speaking her mind, standing up for what she believes is right, staying true to herself, and paving a path for all women along the way.
There are some parents who cannot watch their child in any form of competition. It’s just too much for them, they can’t sit still, they are too anxious…So they wait outside the venue, pacing back and forth, waiting to hear the outcome. On the flipside, there are some parents who can’t wait to watch their children participate in an event where they can cheer their child on. Sure, they are nervous, but they’ve watched their child train so hard and for so long that they just have to be there. They talk to themselves and to their child from the stands, even if they know their child is not watching because their child is focused on the game. They only want the best for their child and may say things like- “Dribble left, dribble right, pass pass pass” – to a child playing a basketball game who has not once had time to look over in their direction because they are too focused on the game, and yet we say it because we are invested also. And then they do it because they know what needs to be done and you think, “…that’s my baby!” We want to see their efforts pay off. We want to remind them of what to do when we notice them skipping a beat, even if they never see us doing so, because we want nothing but the best for them. We want them to win. We get upset when things aren’t going well, we yell, we shout, we boo, and unless we are loud enough to be heard over the crowd, our children never know until we have told them after the fact, but we know. Coaches, who invest lots of time, love and energy into their athletes are also like parents.
I would like to end by saying that lots of rude, hurtful and disrespectful comments and caricatures about Sarena have been released since Saturday. Whether you agree with her or not, I wish people could be more respectful. This woman is someone’s daughter, sister, wife, and mother. It is my hope that one day people will be able to focus on the issues without attacking one’s physical appearance. This woman is and will always be one of the greatest athletes of all time.
Great job ladies!
The P.I. Mom