Photo credits: The Associated Press
The defeat of Serena Williams (pictured right) last weekend at this year’s U.S. Open ushered in a tidal wave of discussion about racism, sexism, and the unnecessary double standard that exists in all professional sports.
Williams is definitely the most prolific woman to ever compete in the professional world of tennis. However, the chance to earn her 24th Grand Slam title was derailed during a September 8th showdown with Naomi Osaka (pictured left), a 20-year-old rising tennis phenom of Haitian and Japanese descent.
Osaka won her first Grand Slam title after defeating Williams at the U.S. Open and became the second-youngest woman in the history of professional tennis to achieve that feat. Though the match was contentious, Williams verbally disputed some calls against her by officials, most notably toward U.S. Open chair umpire Carlos Ramos.
The vociferous, yet profanity-free laments Williams vocally lodged at Ramos were questionably decried by renowned sports writers. Frank Pingue, a journalist for Reuters who covers sports said Williams’ actions “divided the world of tennis.” Pingue’s scathing indictment against a single woman may indeed be misguided.
Though she had her score docked and was fined $17,000, Williams’ actions alone were not a rallying cry to save herself. Her mention of how men are treated in professional tennis for challenging the calls of officials during matches was respectably valid.
Even tennis legend Billie Jean King spoke out in defense of Williams via Twitter saying:
“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.”
Another outlet of shoddy journalism added insult to injury by subsequently publishing a inflammatory caricature of Williams, which was met with a tidal wave of controversy. Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper covered Williams’ loss to Osaka complete with a dehumanizing illustration drawn by the outlet’s cartoonist Mark Knight.
Scroll down to see sketch
Though Knight reportedly said afterwards in a media interview that his sketch was “not racist,” the depiction of an overweight Williams with enlarged lips acting in a beastly fashion while throwing a tantrum was in a nutshell a spiteful artistic expression devoid of any class.
In closing, it is worth noting that the out pour of support for Williams during this time has deflected any of the hatred that has been spewed her way. The impeccable class she exemplified while publicly praising Osaka after her match with the budding star was beyond commendable.
Williams’ legacy will be cemented not only by her unquestionable dominance of her sport. She will also be remembered as a pioneering black woman in the world of racist and sexist America who did not allow her wealth to blind or numb her from the societal problems, which need constant advocacy.
May her courageous voice continue to drown out oppression long after her time in the game is over.