Karine Jean-Pierre
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Billie Jean King Slams U.S. Open Umpire for Sexist 'Abuse of Power'

Serena Williams, Billie Jean King, and Naomi Osaka

Out tennis legend Billie Jean King slammed the chair umpire who repeatedly fined Serena Williams during her U.S. Open final match against Naomi Osaka on Saturday of being motivated by a sexist double standard and an “abuse of power.” Following tweets about the issue in which she rallied behind Williams, King addressed the treatment of women, and specifically women of color, in an op-ed for The Washington Post

The controversy began when chair umpire Carlos Ramos handed tennis great Williams a code violation warning for coaching, accusing her of receiving hand signals from her coach Patrick Mouratoglou during the match, according to CNN. Ramos followed that up with a point penalty when Williams, frustrated by the first code violation, slammed her racket. Finally, he slapped Williams with a game penalty after she called him out for treating her differently than he would have treated a male tennis player — many whose outbursts have gone without censure over the years. 

"You stole a point from me and you are a thief," Williams said to Ramos, which resulted in the game penalty. 

Relative newcomer Osaka won the match against the 23-time Grand Slam champ Williams, but her feat was overshadowed by the attention paid to Williams’s dust-up with Ramos. The incident prompted King — a pioneer as a lesbian athlete, the founder of the Women's Tennis Association, and as a woman who fought for equal pay in her sport — to tweet in support of Williams.

 

 

 

Williams addressed sexism in a post-match press conference. 

"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," Williams said, according to CNN. 

In her piece for The Washington Post, King expounded on the inherent sexism in Ramos’s treatment of Williams. 

“Did Ramos treat Williams differently than male players have been treated? I think he did. Women are treated differently in most arenas of life. This is especially true for women of color,” King wrote. 

“And what played out on the court yesterday happens far too often. It happens in sports, in the office, and in public service. Ultimately, a woman was penalized for standing up for herself. A woman faced down sexism, and the match went on," she continued. 

CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan also highlighted the double standard that has allowed male players to engage in outbursts on the court, some of whom have become famous for their tempers. 

"We know that there's quite a history to it. Think of John McEnroe, think of Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi. These men all berated chair umpires, famously so,” Brennan said. “Commercials have been made. McEnroe has done, ‘you can't be serious' and all the other tirades, top of his lungs over the years and none of them received a game penalty.” 

King also touched on the fact that due to what she called Ramos’s “abuse of power” in terms of employing an “archaic” rule of tennis that forbids coaching on every point, both women lost. 

“What was supposed to be a memorable moment for tennis, with Serena Williams, perhaps the greatest player of all time, facing off against Naomi Osaka, the future of our sport, turned into another example of people in positions of power abusing that power,” King wrote. 

To close out her piece, King praised Williams and encouraged women to stand up for themselves in order to exact change. 

"Women have a right, though, to speak out against injustice — as much right as a man. I found myself in similar situations in my career; once, I even walked off the court in protest. It wasn’t my proudest moment, but it may have been one of my more powerful ones,” King wrote.

“I understand what motivated Williams to do what she did. And I hope every single girl and woman watching yesterday’s match realizes they should always stand up for themselves and for what they believe is right. Nothing will ever change if they don’t," she added.

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