A man and woman get pulled over for speeding by different officers. The man gets a warning, but the woman is issued a ticket.
Is that the result of sexist police? And is it a double standard, the result of an old-boys club that doesn't like women drivers?
Of course not. It is a matter of officers exercising that most unique human trait: discretion. From roadways to courtrooms, and from principals’ offices to sports venues, every situation is different. As a result, different punishments are meted out, based on factors specific to each case.
That certainly doesn't mean discretion is perfect. It's not. But nothing in life is. Errors in judgment are committed. But for the most part, discretion in America is used appropriately.
Feeling slighted doesn't absolve people of their wrongdoing. In our example, the woman broke the law, and must face the consequences. It doesn’t matter if she feels singled out, nor is it relevant if she believes the speed limit is too low. She can lobby to change the law after the fact, but, unequivocally, she broke existing law. To expect preferential treatment after committing a transgression is bad enough, but to call it a racket is over the line.
And speaking of racquets, that's exactly the way Serena Williams is describing her situation at the U.S. Open following her embarrassing meltdown.
The U.S. Open Final between Williams and Naomi Osaka promised to be a stellar day for tennis. A Williams’ victory would place her in a tie for most Grand Slam singles wins. And if Osaka prevailed, she would become the first Japanese champion.
Osaka won, but her achievement was overshadowed, and the day marred, by Williams’ outburst, which took center court.
Given that this situation reaches far beyond tennis, here’s a look at what transpired:
1) Background: During the second set, Chair Umpire Carlos Ramos assessed Williams three code violations for infractions that he, and the entire planet, plainly observed.
First, Williams was warned about receiving instructions from coach Patrick Mouratoglou, since coaching during matches is prohibited. A short while later, she shattered her racquet in a fit of anger, and then verbally abused the umpire, calling him, a “thief” and “liar.”
She was fined and assessed scoring penalties.
Yet despite breaking the rules of a game she chose to play, in an organization she freely chose to join, Serena Williams apparently thinks she's above the “law,” and that the rules shouldn't apply to her. Maybe that mindset stems from superstardom, or because she is a coddled athlete. But neither are justification for A) committing those violations, B) deflecting accountability for her actions by invoking sexism, and C) insulting the umpire and impugning his character. Serena set a horrendous example for our young children, leaving a negative mark on her otherwise stellar career.
Most bewildering, though hardly surprising, is that many are defending Serena, chastising the umpire, rallying behind the charges of sexism, and advocating the breaking of “inconvenient” rules. Such positions disregard the rule of law, and engender support for those in the entitled generation who think they can do whatever they want, whenever they want, without repercussion. And their message is clear: when rules get in the way of one’s ambitions, there should be no shame in breaking them, so long as such advantages are one-sided.
2) When assessed the penalty for receiving coaching tips, Williams responded to the umpire: “I have never cheated in my life…you owe me an apology!”
An apology? After Mouratoglou freely admitted to coaching her during the match? Sorry, Serena, but no.
The proof is in the pudding, as Mouratoglou stated, “I was coaching (her).” It doesn’t get any clearer than that.
By definition, if one deliberately breaks the rules, then it is cheating. Glance at notes during a test? Cheating. Stuff a ballot box with fake votes? Cheating. Fudge financials on a tax return? Cheating. And yes, when you are coached during a tennis match, it’s cheating.
Cheating is one thing. But more startling was Mouratoglou’s justification: “Everybody does it…there’s a rule, yes. But you don’t screw a Grand Slam Final and make it the drama the way it was. It could have easily been avoided if there was psychology.”
Psychology? What does that mean? That the umpire should acknowledge cheating and simply accept it? Maybe some umpires turn a blind eye, but that doesn’t make it right. Ramos didn’t. And for that, he continues to be roundly chastised.
3) Serena led, three games to one, when she received her first warning. She played poorly and lost the next game. It was then that she smashed her racquet and received her second violation, being docked a point in the next game. Her verbal assault on the umpire continued throughout the match: “You will never be on a court of mine as long as you live…You stole a point from me…You are a thief…You are a liar… ….When are you going to me an apology? Say you are sorry.”
Serena’s conduct was bad, but her position that the penalties were rooted in Ramos’ alleged sexism — that men get away with worse — was off-the-mark.
First, that’s not necessarily true. Sure, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe had legendary tirades in the 70’s and 80’s, but few, if any, players get away with such outbursts today. Second, the umpire refereeing her game cannot be responsible for what other umpires do. Third, since no two situations are the same, attempting to lump every outburst into a homogenous, one-size-fits all mold doesn’t work.
Most important, Serena’s gender is irrelevant. After all, a sexist male umpire doesn’t “accomplish” anything if the only beneficiary of his discrimination is… another woman. And get real. An umpire is going to be sexist against Serena Williams? She is one of the greatest athletes of all time. So given her multitude of successes, why the conspiracy against her now? Why sexism at this juncture?
But it won’t stop at sexism, because it never does. Inevitably, there will be allegations from some corners that race also played a role.
Obviously, double standards, in all forms, still exist. But in today's hypersensitized climate, does anyone really believe that a secret cabal of men are out to get not just female tennis players, but black ones? Just as there's no “Deep State,” there's no organized attempt to marginalize women in tennis.
Not everything is sexist and bigoted. Not everything is against women and minorities. But to call an umpire a liar and a thief, in an attempt not only to discredit him but potentially destroy his reputation, is unacceptable. Unfortunately, in situations where a powerful celebrity goes up against just a “regular” person, the star often “wins” even when he/she is wrong. The subjugation of rules must end, and people need to stop defending the indefensible.
If you don't like rules, fine. Don't play. But when you do, from pee wee football to the U.S. Open, you are expected comply. End of story.
Serena Williams just served up a whopping fault. She owes it to the umpire, her fans, and the game of tennis to apologize. Otherwise, her reputation as a preeminent role model will be forever tainted — game, set, match.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, Freindly Fire Zone Media. Read more reports from Chris Freind — Click Here Now.
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