Democracy Dies in Darkness

Letters to the Editor | Opinion

What was the right call on Serena Williams’s actions?

September 11, 2018 at 5:34 PM

Serena Williams argues with chair umpire Carlos Ramos on Saturday during the women’s final of the U.S. Open. (Danielle Parhizkaran/USA Today Sports)

As a retired U.S. Tennis Association official, and a woman, I disagree with Sally Jenkins’s Sept. 9 front-page column, “Sexist power play ruins powerful final.” Ms. Jenkins said a tennis umpire was wrong to penalize Serena Williams in the U.S. Open women’s final. I would have done exactly the same if I had been in the chair instead of Carlos Ramos.

If you see a coaching violation, you call it. If you see racket abuse, you call it. If the player berates you and calls you a name, you call it.

Ms. Williams’s hysteria was uncalled for; her behavior was flawed. She has shown this before, and it should not be condoned. Her actions were not those of a “role model” as she was later called — erroneously, in my opinion.

Dorothy Penner, Annapolis

Sally Jenkins’s spectacular commentary clearly struck a nerve among athletes and the general public. As a former collegiate female athlete, I was appalled by the umpire’s unprecedented behavior. Such calls and penalties simply are not made. More disconcerting, though, is the thought that his behavior was sexist. This brings back pre-Title IX memories of decades-long struggles for equity and fairness in women’s sports — in everything from food and transportation to trainers, uniforms and facilities. While the days of the separate and unequal gyms may be waning, it is evident from the U.S. Open women’s final that some attitudes have not changed. Ms. Jenkins was correct and courageous to call them out. The U.S. Tennis Association, moreover, owes both female finalists a public apology and a plan of action to ensure that sexism does not continue to rear its ugly head through misguided and arbitrary calls.

Kathleen M. Burke, Washington

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