Opinion

Umpires strike back: unionizing can help combat double standards

September 17, 2018

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Umpires strike back: unionizing can help combat double standards

Serena Williams is a legendary tennis player. Although she did not win the United States Open Final, she’s still the most talked about tennis player today. This tennis season has not been kind to her. The U.S. Open Final sparked controversy over whether the double standards applied to female tennis players. Everything that Williams had to endure this season has brought attention to the sexism that is involved in this sport.

Williams gave birth to her daughter around this time last year. Due to complications during labor she suffers from blood clots. As a result, Nike designed a beautiful, sleek, cat-like bodysuit. However, officials from the French Tennis Federation believed this bodysuit was offensive. This was just strike one.

Williams is now the most fined player in tennis history. She was fined a total $104,500 in the last six years, according to The Guardian. Her first violation was for receiving coaching while playing. Next, she received a violation and point penalty for smashing her racket. Her third violation resulted in a game penalty for verbal abuse against the umpire, Carlos Ramos.

These recent events have shown the blatant sexism and double standards that Williams has had to endure this season. I agree with Williams that male athletes are treated much differently than female athletes. Men can trash talk and dress how ever they want, but when women attempt to do the same, they face repercussions. I applaud her for taking a stance and trying to voice her reasons as to why she feels that she has had to deal with criticism that men do not have to worry about and how there are double standards even when it comes to professional sports.

“I can’t sit here and say I wouldn’t say he’s a thief because I thought he took a game from me, but I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things and I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff, “ Williams said, according to Vox.

Williams is not the only one facing double standards in this sport. Alize Cornet, a French tennis player, also received a code violation for briefly taking her shirt off to fix it. Men have taken their shirts off while playing tennis and while participating in various other sports. For example, Novak Djokovic, Wimbledon champion, sat shirtless for several minutes during a match. However, he was never penalized or suffered from consequences in any form.

The recent backlash that umpire Ramos has faced has started a rebellious spark among the other umpires. This rebellion starts with top umpires considering boycotting Williams’ matches. I think these umpires considering this boycott shouldn’t be officiating at her games. They clearly have some bias toward Williams, which could end up with her having more violations or losing points to unfair calls.

Umpires in this sport are claiming to not feel supported by the United States Tennis Association (USTA), according to PressHerald. This has led to claims of the umpires coming together to form some type of union. However, they may say their motive for this union is based on the recent events surrounding the US tournament with Williams but I think there is another reason for this union, their pay.

“Gold badge chair umpires, the highest-rated officials in professional tennis, the ones who work the most  important tournaments and matches, make $250 cash each day at the Open. It is the lowest pay rate for any Grand Slam tournament,” according to The New York Times. 

By forming a union, the umpires will be able to collectively stand together and request a pay raise. They can work on supporting each other, talking through the tennis matches they umpired, and they can freshen up on their basic training. They can educate themselves, work on putting their biases aside, and fairly umpire these tennis matches without double standard calls.

Future generations of female tennis players may be able to thank Williams in the future for how she spoke out on this issue and demanded equal treatment in this sport. The U.S. Open did not work out in Williams’ favor, but she has helped in raising awareness to the clear double standards and sexism that exist in this sport today. We can only hope that by unionizing and retraining umpires that will get rid of these double standards calls purely based on gender

“Maybe it didn’t work out for me, but it’s going to work out for the next person,” said Williams.