Serena Williams was handed $17,000 fine by the U.S. Tennis Association for her outburst during her controversial loss in the U.S. Open Sunday. The tennis star meanwhile spent her post-loss time in mom mode, at least on social media, while Billie Jean King and the National Organization for Women called out tennis for having a double standard toward women.
Williams’ only message Saturday night was a brief Instagram video of her 1-year-old daughter Olympia, wearing a miniature version of her mom’s tutu and little sneakers, toddling with her beloved doll, Qai Qai. Serena laughed about her daughter’s shoes as she filmed the moment, asking Olympia where she’d gotten "them shoes." On Sunday morning, she shared an image of a girl in first-day-of-school clothes with a Serena logo and asked, "What does your ‘S’ stand for? #beseenbeheard"
It was left for others to go beyond Williams’ remarks to reporters and King, a pioneer in women’s rights and sports, quickly stepped up. "Several things went very wrong during the U.S. Open women’s finals today," she tweeted. "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.
"When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it," she continued, echoing Williams’ point that male players are never penalized for outbursts - even the profane ones. "When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ and there are no repercussions. Thank you, Serena Williams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same."
The U.S. Tennis Association weighed in shortly before noon Sunday, announcing that Williams was being fined $17,000 for three code violations. That is in keeping with the events that cascaded in such ugly fashion Saturday night, when she was warned for receiving coaching during the match against Naomi Osaka, penalized a point for destroying her racket and docked a game at a critical moment in the second set for what chair umpire Carlos Ramos deemed to be verbal abuse. Williams emotionally had told him that she does not cheat and has a daughter for whom she tries to set an example. Afterward, she spoke about why she called Ramos a thief for taking her point and game and how she had cited Olympia in telling him on the court, "I don’t cheat to win."
"I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t say he’s a thief, because I thought he took a game from me," Williams said. "I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff. For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief.’ For me it blows my mind, but I’m going to continue to fight for women and to fight for us to have equal coordination - to be able to take our shirt off on the court without getting a fine. This is outrageous.
"The fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and that want to express themselves and they want to be a strong woman. They’re going to be allowed to do that because of today. Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person."
On Sunday morning, the president of the National Organization for Women pointed out that "men stretch the rules all the time and are lionized for being ‘bad boys’" and called for Ramos’s dismissal. There were multiple examples on social media, including video of Roger Federer repeatedly telling a chair umpire, "Don’t (expletive) talk to me" during the 2009 U.S. Open men’s final, and Jimmy Connors famously called an official an abortion repeatedly during a U.S. Open match in 1991. Neither were penalized.
"In what was a blatantly racist and sexist move, tennis umpire Carlos Ramos unfairly penalized Serena Williams in an abhorrent display of male dominance and discrimination. This would not have happened if Serena Williams was a man," Toni Van Pelt said in a statement to The Washington Post. "She would have been cheered and chided for ‘gamesmanship.’ Male tennis stars are reminding us that they have ‘done much worse’ and have not been penalized.
"Ramos claimed he was just following the rules, but in actuality men stretch the rules all the time and are lionized for being ‘bad boys’ while women are benched. This is also a prime example of how racism and sexism are two of the biggest obstacles that black women in America face."
Overshadowed by the controversy was the fact that Osaka played brilliantly, with her inexperience perhaps helping her weather the bizarre circumstances of the second set of her 6-2, 6-4 win.
During the second game of that set, Willams received a violation from Ramos for receiving coaching from Patrick Mouratoglou, who had made a motion from the stands that appeared to instruct Williams to go to the net more frequently. The 23-time grand slam champion vehemently argued the call, with some of her protests audible on the ESPN broadcast.
"If he gives me a thumbs up, he’s telling me to come on," explained Williams. "We don’t have any code, and I know that you don’t know that and I understand why you may have thought that was coaching, but I’m telling you it’s not. I don’t cheat to win, I’d rather lose."
Seemingly motivated by the violation, Williams went on a mini-run to take a 3-2 lead, but her momentum was stymied after Osaka produced a critical serve break. Williams then slammed her racket to the ground in frustration and was assessed a second violation from Ramos that resulted in a point loss.
Down 3-4 in the set, Williams told Ramos, "You stole a point from me and you are a thief." Ramos interpreted the remark as verbal abuse, and awarded a game to Osaka, putting the eventual winner one game away from victory.
After the call, Twitter lit up with reactions. Fans, members of the media, celebrities and casual observers weighed in, clearly taking up her cause.
USTA president Katrina Adams issued a statement after the match, making a point of noting Williams’ "class and sportsmanship" and calling her "an inspiration to me, personally, and a credit to our sport, win or lose."