After we found out that this summer that Wimbledon officials were assigning women players to centre court according to their sex appeal, we knew the double standard for men and women athletes was alive and well. Now, that double standard is confirmed in the report today that Serena Williams will be fined $82,500 for her US Open tirade against a line judge. She will also be on a two year probation during which, if she has another “major offense,” at a Grand Slam tournament, the fine would increase to $175,000 and she would be barred from the following U.S. Open. I agree that Williams’ outburst deserved to be punished. It was profane and unacceptable behavior.
However, it was no worse than the temper tantrums we tolerated repeatedly from John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors. I recall profanity, abuse of officials, bird flipping, crotch grabbing and more from them. Were they ever fined? If they were, it certainly wasn’t a whopper like the one levied against Serena. Let’s see what could be the difference here? White men, Black woman. Could it be that, not only do we insist on our women athletes being sexy, we also demand that they be well behaved? Is a Black woman blowing up on court more threatening than a white woman? Would a white woman exhibiting similar behavior be fined equivalently? Would a black male player be fined more severely than a white male player?
We do know that white male tennis players can be butt ugly and still make the cover of Sports Illustrated if they are champions. They can be as rude and boorish as they like and we just chuckle (John McEnroe makes commercials now spoofing his ill tempered behavior on the court) or forgive their outbursts as fiery competitiveness reflective of a champion’s drive to win.
Maybe standards have changed. Maybe a current male player who had a blow up similar to the one by Serena would be fined as much. I don’t know. I just know we never leave our sexism or racism at the gym door or the entrance to center court. I don’t believe they were absent from the conference room when tennis officials decided on Serena’s punishment either. What do you think?