All she asked for was just a little bit of respect. She didn’t ask to be treated like the phenomenal superstar that she is; she just asked that a little, teeny bit of the respect freely and generously bestowed on others be shown to her as well. What was so hard about that, Carlos Ramos?
There are only three athletes that you should never ever count out of a game: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, and Serena Williams. Yes, Naomi Osaka, the phenomenal young talent, outplayed her in the first set. But are you going to say the game was beyond Serena’s reach even after losing the first set when she’s on serve 3-4 in the second?
Carlos Ramos robbed Serena on so many levels; he robbed Naomi, and he robbed the fans. He’s more than just a thief. He should be banned from tennis.
But Ramos is just the latest in a long list who have done Serena (and Venus) wrong.
The crowds at US Open: I was heartened by the fact that the crowd was behind Serena yesterday. There was once a time when the Sisters were the only athletes who didn’t ever enjoy a home-court advantage. Whether at the US Open or at Indian Wells, the crowds took great pleasure in rooting for their opponents while hurling racist insults at them. Even now I am not altogether confident that the crowd would have remained loyal to Serena if she’d been playing a Sharapova yesterday.
Sports writers: This group truly cannot help themselves and don’t even try to hide their disdain for the Sisters. Over the years sportswriters have body-shamed Serena, characterized her on-court screams as "guttural and animalistic — even as they declared that Sharapova’s grunts remind them of “hot sex.” They’ve insinuated that her incredible success must be as a result of illegal drug use, and that’s just for starters. Today they had multiple articles talking about her “bad behavior” and her “meltdown.” We see you, Felicias.
Analysts and commentators: I’ve long argued that Mary Carillo and Chris Evert should not be allowed to do commentary when Serena is playing. Those two women hate Serena. I swear. Everybody says that Serena’s back was to her coach when he made the coaching motions but yet Evert was on TV talking ‘bout, “Serena was receiving coaching from her team...” And I personally will never forgive her for saying that Serena should be tested for performance-enhancing drugs. In general, and in part because of social media, commentators have been trying very hard to watch their language, but at times it’s painfully obvious that it’s quite the chore for them.
Game officials: This is the second time that I’ve heard people exclaim in disbelief, “I’ve never seen anything like this.” “This is the first time that I’ve seen this in a tennis match.” And both occasions had to do with Serena Williams. The first was the case of multiple foot-faults called against her in a game against Clijsters some years ago. I don’t think that I’ve heard another foot-fault call since then. Then there was the very, very bizarre case of the French Tennis Federation president:
In an interview published recently in a French tennis magazine, the French official singled out the black figure-hugging catsuit that Williams wore as he revealed that the tournament would institute a dress code. "It will no longer be accepted," Giudicelli said of the catsuit. "I think sometimes we've gone too far. One must respect the game and place."
And I could go on about those who have gone out of their way to telegraph to Serena that her presence is not welcome in a space that has traditionally excluded people who look like her. That she’s managed to conquer the sport and establish herself as the best it has ever produced speaks to her phenomenal strength… and no, I’m not speaking about brawn. Having to deal with the intersectionality of racism and sexism on the public stage, fighting life-threatening health scares even as you remain classy and beautiful and empathetic takes a special type of strength and Serena has it in spades. No, Carlos Ramos, you have not broken her. You cannot stop her. She will have the last laugh.
Update: Woke up this morning to word of just the most obscene cartoon from a proud Australian racist. This response to that cartoon is everything:
Another phenomenal woman comes to Serena’s defense: