Entertainment

Serena Williams’ Controversial Behavior Cost Her the U.S. Open and $17,000

Sports fans are divided on what happened — was the umpire's call sexist?

Image Credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP / Getty Images

Tennis star Serena Williams lost the U.S. Open women’s final this past weekend against Naomi Osaka — and was fined $17,000 for three code violations, including one for calling the chair umpire a “thief” on Saturday, as Fox News reported.

Williams, 36, attributed the penalties she received a result of the umpire’s “sexism.”

“This isn’t the first time [Williams] has tangled with referees or umpires, even female ones,” said Fox News host Laura Ingraham on “The Ingraham Angle” Monday night.

“She’s now the martyr for the female cause that many supporters are now claiming,” Ingraham added.

Asked if this was a sexist call by the chair umpire, “Ingraham Angle” guest John Lloyd, a sports commentator and former British professional tennis player, answered, “No, no, no. Not at all.”

“Carlos Ramos [the umpire] is a stickler for the rules. That’s the way he is. And he went by the book … The three things that he called Serena for were correct,” said Lloyd, adding that Ramos might have been able to diffuse the situation if, early on, he had handled it differently.

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“I think that Serena was having a really tough day,” said sports agent Anthony Tall. “I think she was a little more upset with what was going on against Osaka [Williams’ opponent] as opposed to what the ref was saying to her.”

“I will say, John McEnroe has done much worse,” Tall added, referencing the tennis great from New York and drawing attention to the basis for Williams’ accusation that the violations stemmed from sexism.

The first violation arose from illegal coaching by Williams’ coach, Patrick Mouratoglou.

Williams vehemently denied this, insisting, “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.”

Mouratoglou later admitted to coaching Serena during the final, as Sporting News reported.

He told ESPN, “I don’t think she looked at me, so that’s why she didn’t even think I was.”

A frustrated Williams suffered a second violation after she smashed her racquet — resulting in the loss of a point.

The argument with umpire Carlos Ramos then devolved to yelling, name-calling, and a demand for an apology.

It was when she called the umpire a “thief” that she automatically lost the game.

The “thief” remark was in reference to the umpire’s taking a point from the accomplished athlete.

Later, the 23-time Grand Slam tennis champ characterized the umpire’s behavior as “sexist,” noting that male players rarely suffer similar penalties.

Sports commentators, tennis professionals, and, of course, fans on social media were bitterly divided over the matter.

Some defended the umpire, saying essentially that rules are rules — and that Williams clearly violated them. Gender has nothing to do with it.

“I think the question we have to ask ourselves is this: What is the right way to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?”

“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 honor our sport and to respect our opponents?” said broadcaster, former tennis champion, and human rights activist Martina Navratilova in an op-ed Monday in The New York Times.

“But we cannot measure ourselves by what we think we should also be able to get away with. In fact, this is the sort of behavior that no one should be engaging in on the court.”

Others took Williams’ side.

Her defenders’ primary points were threefold. First, coaching from the sidelines, while technically against the rules, is common. Second, male tennis players quite regularly argue with umpires — some saying much worse things than Williams did — and they do not suffer the same consequences that she did. And third, the consequences the umpire meted out were far more grievous than the violation warranted.

Sports analyst Mary Carillo was roundly criticized on social media after she shared her thoughts on Williams’ behavior and the umpire’s reaction to it. Some went so far as to call her a racist.

After praising Williams and saying she respected and admired her, Carillo said on MSNBC Monday, “But at [Serena Williams’] very worst, as she was on this night, she acts like a bully.”

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Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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