Editor’s Note: We value all opinions at Women AdvaNCe. After our Monday piece, we had two writers who wanted to add their perspective. Both pieces are shared here and we celebrate the differing views of the incident.
By Amy Brightwood
Reading the article “Don’t Call it an Outburst or a Meltdown!” nearly led me to a meltdown.
I am not a writer, but feel compelled to respond to the invitation to volley this ball back and forth on the issue of Serena William’s behavior at the US Open. I am a life-long tennis player and fan and actually watched the match. I know what I saw.
Call it an outburst, a meltdown, a tantrum or whatever you like. The fact is Serena behaved like a bully. Her coach cost her the first warning (and players are responsible for the coach’s actions), and she brought the following point penalty upon herself by smashing her racquet. Her repeated yelling, in your face pointing, name-calling, demanding, bullying behavior toward the umpire cost her the third penalty of a game. All three of these actions taken by umpire Carlos Ramos were clearly and completely according to the rules. The International Tennis Federation wrote “Mr. Ramos’ decisions were in accordance with the relevant rules and were re-affirmed by the U.S. Open’s decision to fine Serena Williams for the three offenses.” Williams was fined a total of $17,000 by U.S. Open tournament officials. Ramos did his job, well I might add, and Serena abused him in the process. And Serena is the victim? I do not understand this perspective.
Just like the trophy ceremony, instead of focusing on the brilliant and dominating play of Naomi Osaka, Serena has garnered all of the attention in this op ed so far. Osaka beat the legend, outplaying her the whole match. To suggest Serena likely lost the match because of the umpiring incidents is ridiculous and unfounded. She got beat by a superior player that day.
Osaka and Ramos were the victims, not Williams. Serena claimed the umpire stole a point from her, but she is the one who stole something. Naomi Osaka was robbed of a moment so well-deserved- a celebration of great play and glory of winning your first grand slam championship.
Claims of sexism or racism determining Ramos’ actions ring empty. Man, woman, black, brown, white- Williams’ behavior was unacceptable, unfair and disrespectful. Why spend time comparing it to someone else’s behavior? Bad behavior is bad behavior.
Tennis great Martina Navratilova wrote an op ed in the New York Times where she stated “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 behave to honor our sport and to respect our opponents?” “…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.” I invite you to read more.
Martina Navratilova: What Serena Got Wrong (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/10/opinion/martina-navratilova-serena-williams-us-open.html)
I just read these lines in an email from WomenAdvaNCe…”the best of ourselves is revealed when we are faced with challenges. How will we respond to them?” Advantage sportsmanlike conduct.
Why black women across the world understood Serena’s soliloquy
by Kassaundra Shanette Lockhart
As I sat and watched Serena fight back, tears formed in my eyes.
Her words were sharp.
Her eyes were piercing.
Her body language was stern.
She was fed up.
She’d had enough.
She was exhausted.
I’ve only played tennis maybe three times in my life yet I knew exactly what she was going through.
I felt her pain.
I understood her pain.
I knew her pain.
Simply because, I, too, am a black woman.
I know what it’s like to be treated unfairly due to the melanin that richly flows through my skin.
I know what it’s like to be criticized because I refuse to back down.
I know what it’s liked to be labeled as aggressive, rude, belligerent, disrespectful, abrasive and my “favorite”, angry. I know simply because, I, too, am a black woman.
For as long as I can remember the words above have been associated with us. They’ve been used to justify the unfair treatment, assumptions and judgement of us. What I find interesting in all of this is that a lot of these words tend to only be used when we refuse to back down from a character assassination, a threat to our well-being or a belittlement of our existence.
You see, many want us to sit around, play a role and do nothing to rock the massive ship we were brought over on. Many want us to do what we’re told to do, not see things for what they are and never challenge the system. We’re expected to allow others to degrade us, badger us, berate us, punish us, chastise us and oppress us regardless of the valid reasons we have for fighting back.
And these are the feelings that welled up inside of me as I watched not only the greatest tennis player of all-time but one of the greatest athletes of all-time fight for her dignity, reputation and blackness.
Now I already know many will read this and say to their inner selves, “Here we go again. Someone always has to pull the race card.” Well let me let you in on a well-known fact: It wouldn’t be so easy to pull the card from the deck if this country’s foundation wasn’t built upon it.
To my knowledge, Serena hasn’t attributed what happened to racism but to sexism. She as well as millions of us across the world have watched men fuss, cuss, kick, scream, stomp and yell in response to an umpire’s decision. John McEnroe was notorious for this. So was Andre Agassi. Want to bring it current? Novak Djokovic had a very expressive exchange with the same chair umpire during this year’s Wimbledon tournament. He wasn’t assessed a match or game penalty. Only a code violation for throwing his racquet.
While many will and have singled out a few instances where Serena unleashed a fury of words, many won’t search to understand the kindlin that sparks the fire. And while she hasn’t suggested race played a part in the incident, I will.
See. I know what I saw on Saturday. I didn’t just see Serena fighting for her name that she has worked hard to protect for twenty years. I saw a woman, a black woman, who has had to fight harder than anyone, other than her sister Venus, to be respected during the last twenty years simply because of the color of her skin.
I saw the frustration.
I saw the weariness.
I saw the emotional toll.
I saw the hurt.
I saw the anger.
I saw the sadness.
I saw the 23-time major champion nearing her brink.
And I dare you to try and “forget” her journey to that point.
Remember when she and Venus first started to gain national attention twenty years ago? The naysayers had a problem with their dad, Richard Williams’, confidence. Remember when they started to win? The naysayers had a problem with the beads on their braids. Remember when they started to feel more comfortable on the court? The naysayers had a problem with them being vocally expressive during matches. Remember when they started to win major titles? The naysayers had a problem with them questioning equal pay. Remember when Venus started experiencing health issues and Serena started staking her claim as the GOAT? The naysayers had a problem with Serena’s physical stature. And remember how Serena gave birth to her daughter Olympia nearly a year ago, almost died as a result, suffered from post-partum depression and came back to play in two major finals? The naysayers ordered more “random” drug tests, outlawed her catsuit and tried to break her.
However, what they failed to still realize is that the same resilience that flowed through the veins of her ancestors now runs like a river through her body. It runs through the body of every black woman on this planet.
In the meantime while the naysayers are plotting their next move, I have a headline for you: Black women are tired. And we are fighting back – whether it fits into your perfect little narrative or not. You won’t run over us. You won’t silence us. You won’t control us. No matter what foolishness you stack up against us, we won’t fold.
And you better get used to it cause here’s the real headline for ya’ll: We may bend but we will NEVER break.