Was Saturday’s US Open match a clear case of misogyny? Can we infer that the official, Carlos Ramos, acted out of contempt for women?
For those who are unaware of the circumstance, the short story is that Serena Williams was given three successive and progressive penalties, which arguably could have made a difference in the outcome of the match. The unfortunate result is that the actions of the official tainted the victory for Naomi Osaka, the 20 year old superstar from Japan, who grew up idolizing Serena and hoping for the opportunity to play against her one day. Ramos’s actions not only harmed Serena’s chances, but also tainted Osaka’s victory, driving her to tears of anguish rather than joy at winning.
Ramos had an alternative, one that I’ve used a few times myself as a USTA Official. It’s within an official’s power to issue an unofficial or “soft” warning. Doing so, enables the player to become cognizant of the issue and make the needed correction. Just because the official has the authority to hand out a penalty or begin the penalty process, does not mean they’re required, or even should, do so. In a case where the player is not even cognizant that wrongdoing is taking place, a soft warning is the appropriate action.
Yes, Serena’s coach, Patrick Mouratoglou, gestured to her during the match. And he admitted he intended to coach her. Quite frankly, coaching takes place all the time. And, it’s rarely penalized, but that’s not my point.
Ramos saw something happening that was wrong to a woman who eschews coaching even when she is entitled to it during WTA matches. Nothing in Serena’s demeanor gave Ramos the notion that she either invited or knew it was happening. When he saw it happening, he had a responsibility to first say something to enable her to make it stop. He failed her. He assaulted her character and stole from her.
Just like someone should stop a sexual assault or speak up when a predator goes after a person who’s unconscious or unaware of what’s happening, Ramos should, at least, have told Serena of Mouratoglou’s wrongdoing and given her the opportunity to stop it, before making it her fault. If she failed to correct the situation while “knowing,” a code warning would have been the appropriate next step.
Getting a code warning is like getting a strike. Incorrectly calling a strike on a player, when there are two outs and your team is down in in the last inning of the world series would result in huge uproar from the players, fans and coaches. But when Ramos did it to Serena, she’s expected to be silent??? Balderdash! And that concept that a woman should keep her mouth shut about wrongdoing and unfairness is what raises concerns about misogyny.
Serena didn’t swear at Ramos. She let him know, clearly, how she felt. She called him a thief because he was. And giving her a game penalty because he, himself, turned up the temperature in the kitchen, and couldn’t take the heat, is rotten officiating.
If you were racing for millions in prize money, and darted across an un-trafficked street, a policeman could stop you and give you a ticket for jay-walking. Does that mean he should? That’s basically what Ramos did. He had another option. A responsible one that he failed to use.
Did Ramos pick on Serena because she’s a woman? Was he motivated by ego to put his personal stamp on an important game? No matter what drove him to overlook a simpler more appropriate solution, he demonstrated that he is unqualified to officiate professional matches.