By Tim Lacy, Special to the AFRO
Colin Kaepernick and Serena Williams have something in common: They both have recently used their platform at the top of the world of sports to fight injustice. Colin has a cause that is ongoing and serves us all, while Serena’s recent battle was more or less one and done. At least that is what it seemed like at the moment, but recent comments from tennis insiders indicate that this battle is far from over.
At the US Open Tennis tournament referee Carlos Ramos decided to exercise a little brinkmanship. He seemed to say, “Look at me” when he called a penalty on Serena for a coaching incident. Coaches direct players from the sidelines all of the time, and it is mostly overlooked or handled quietly. Serena has a past history of being explosive, but has learned to handle her emotions as she matured. This penalty seemed to suggest to Serena that she was cheating, and the lid came off of the 23-time Grand Slam Champion.
Unable to stem the tide of her emotions, her game seemed to falter. This resulted in her breaking her racket on the court. At this time, Ramos rose to the occasion and penalized her a point. I think in Serena’s mind no matter what you accomplish, being a woman and a person of color you will never escape adversity.
Serena grew up in Compton, California. The word Compton is synonymous with ghetto and there weren’t a lot of opportunities to escape the crime ridden streets. Serena’s older sister was killed in a drive-by shooting, and being the youngest of 10 siblings, Serena saw her world come tumbling down. Fortunately her father introduced her and her older sister, Venus, to tennis.
As the siblings got older, they got better and posed a threat to opponents. At Indian Wells, entry in a tournament showed them that they had another opponent on the court (Jim Crow). The treatment was so shabby, they boycotted the tournament for 13 years.
All of the pressures of life and competition seemed to come crashing down, and Serena took issue with Ramos, who responded by penalizing her a game. His reason: he didn’t like her tone. Obviously he never saw male tennis legends Jimmy Connors or John McEnroe explode. When these guys and a few of their peers let the lid come off, mothers clutched their young to their side.
When Serena’s match ended, the crowd booed so loud that 20-year-old Naomi Osaka joined Serena in a flood of tears. However, Serena assured her that the boos were not for her. She showed a touch of class by quieting the crowd and encouraged Naomi to celebrate her moment.
Comments from tennis greats Chris Everett, Martina Navratilova and Billie Jean King were extremely unkind to Ramos, and they all held out that tennis for women is not the same as tennis for men. There is a hidden bias and it should be exposed.