So, I'm not sure if you've heard, but Serena Williams played a tennis match this weekend. Since it was a day in America, sexism and racism ruined it for absolutely everyone involved.
Chair ump Carlos Ramos called coaching violation on Williams (which implied she was cheating) that umps virtually never call on players. Worse, it seems he did not make it clear it was an official penalty. She'd objected, and they'd conversed, and she thought everything was fine. Next, he penalized her a point when she broke her racket, which white men do it all the time without penalty, and which then made it VERY clear he had indeed penalized her for cheating via the coaching violation. Finally, he penalized her a game when she said he stole a point from her and he was a thief.
Let me be clear. No one is saying these things definitively cost Serena Williams the match. NO ONE. Everyone understands she was up to that point being outplayed by Osaka. EVERYONE. Including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka. That is what is wrong with humanity, frankly, is that so many don't understand the profound unfairness, the deep injustice, the gut-wrenching pain, and the soul-crushing symbolism of what happened on that court, before and after it.
Thankfully, some get it.
Ramos’s censure of Williams on Saturday night cannot be disentangled from her gender and race any more than the other recent obstacles she’s faced, from the physical toll of pregnancy, to her profession’s status-tax on it, to her higher risk of maternal mortality and post-partum complication. Because in making the coaching call, in the midst of a match she was playing against a newcomer who looked likely to beat her fair and square, the umpire insinuated that Serena was herself not playing fair and square. That made her livid. And one thing black women are never allowed to be without consequence is livid.
There was absolutely nothing worthy of penalizing in the statement. It was pure vapor release. She said it in a tone of wrath, but it was compressed and controlled. All Ramos had to do was to continue to sit coolly above it, and Williams would have channeled herself back into the match. But he couldn’t take it. He wasn’t going to let a woman talk to him that way. A man, sure. Ramos has put up with worse from a man. At the French Open in 2017, Ramos leveled Rafael Nadal with a ticky-tacky penalty over a time delay, and Nadal told him he would see to it that Ramos never refereed one of his matches again.
And, of course, consistently and without fail, Joy Reid and the people she engages on her panel get it. Here's Zerlina Maxwell:
MAXWELL: It was an example of two women of color having what should have been an amazing moment for both of them, no matter who won or lost. And it was marred by a man's choice. That happens every single day in America. And I think that in this particular context, I've watched tennis my whole life. I've never, ever seen what happened yesterday to Serena Williams happen in tennis. ...And as a black woman, you know, there are so many moments where you are actually wronged. Where I feel like Serena was wronged in this situation. And wanted an apology. And you don't get it. And that makes you very upset, Joy.
Kurt Bardella gets it.
BARDELLA: I just had a piece go up on USAToday.com talking about this. When you look at any pre-game sports montage in any championship game-type scenario, there are flashes of intense figures posing, gesturing. Draymond Green flexing. And athletes are celebrated, and when they do that it is called passion, intensity, competitive spirit. They are hailed and celebrated for that show of emotion. The idea that this referee felt he was verbally abused because a Serena Williams in a very calm, succinct, control manner, pointed out that he had robbed her of a game is absolutely absurd. How many times do we see athlete, superstars yell, spit, verbal tirades with profanity-laced that you you can't even air on tv. Not once did Serena Williams ever lose control. Not once did she lose her composure. Not once can you say that anything that she had said is anyway really objectionable in tone or in rhetoric. What happened was a complete miscarriage of justice and ridiculous.
Here's my breakdown.
1. Male chair ump in a male finals match can take a threat/tirade/bullshit from a male player because it makes him feel and look cool and like a big man. Or at least, there's the chance of that.
2. Male chair ump in female finals, however, cannot take a firm, respectful, and yes, even angry challenge from a female player because he thinks it makes him look weak if he does not respond.
3. Male chair ump in female finals cannot take a firm, respectful, and yes, even angry challenge from a BLACK female player because he thinks it makes him look weak AND OWNED if he does not respond.
4. If there is one thing we know men cannot handle, it is looking weak and owned. Even if it is by the fiercest, most universally respected athlete on the planet. Because she is a woman and she is Black.
5. Carlos Ramos should never have the honor of being an ump in a Williams sister match again, and he should apologize to Serena Williams AND Naomi Osaka publicly.
When do I get the key to making all the rules of the world? Because when I do, I'm handing it over to Serena Williams.