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The debate continues

Was Serena Williams right in protesting chair umpire Carlos Ramos calls that cost her the US Open crown? Is there a double standard for men and women regarding on-court behavior?

These questions persist as debate over controversy that marred the Open finale won by Japanese Naomi Osaka continued a week after it happened.

Serena Williams accused Ramos of falling victim of the chair umpire’s warning about her being helped by her coach in the stands, which is against the rules. She called that a “sexist” ruling while denying that she was being coached and telling repeatedly she doesn’t cheat.

The coach Patrick Mouratoglou later admitted having used hand signals in coaching Williams.

Ramos’ initial warning led to repeated protests by Williams, who was docked a point for breaking her racquet, and then docked a game for verbally abusing the umpire.

Williams, too, called the umpire a “thief” and demanded an apology from him. Ramos didn’t reply to the outbursts. Tournament officials who came on court determined that he had acted within the rules.

The real controversy, however, was William’s charge that the warning for cheating and subsequent penalties constituted sexism, saying that many players get away with coaching — and that male players aren’t punished for complaining to the umpire.

The Women’s Tennis Association, Billie Jean King and others supported Williams, saying male players would not have been punished in the same situation. Many players even consider the anti-coaching rule obsolete and say it should be abolished.

Others though, including Martina Navratilova, said Williams’ behavior was inexcusable, creating an atmosphere that marred the competition and disrespected her opponent. The International Tennis Federation said the umpire had acted appropriately.

Reports coming from London said that professional tennis umpires have threatened to boycott officiating Serena Williams’ future matches after she accused sitting official of “stealing” her points in the US Open.

The umpires contented, reports said, that the WTA and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) have backed Williams’ claims of sexism in Ramos’ docking the tennis star of two points have cost her the final.

The debate on Williams’ treatment, others claimed, has got something to do with the color of her skin.

Williams, like Arthur Ashe and other Black tennis players before her, has endured an uphill battle by virtue of simply playing a sport which was segregated for centuries reserved only to white noblemen.

A Williams rose to stardom, so did the racist attacks against her. She’s been booed. She’s been called the N-word. She and her sister, Venus were called “The Williams Brothers” because of their male-like physiques and prowess on the court.

Serena, in fact, has been the target of racist messaging that she isn’t welcome in the sport she dominates.

Her “thief” accusation hurled at Ramos was nothing compared to what many of her white counterparts have said to him and other umpires in the past. She didn’t threaten, and she didn’t curse.

But the argument is not about whether what she said was or wasn’t right: it’s about the repercussions she incurred, which included a $17,000 fine in addition to the two-point deduction.

White tennis players berating umpires, smashing rackets, threatening officials, and even hitting umpires with balls can easily be found online. And yet there doesn’t seem to be any instance of mass-boycott to result from those players’ actions.

Does the umpires threat to boycott Williams’ future games tantamount to saying that although most, if not all professional tennis players have had similar outbursts on the court, it’s this particular outbursts of the greatest tennis player of all time—a black woman—that are so damaging to their profession?

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