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courtesy of Instagram/@off____white

Serena Williams: ‘I’m here fighting for women’s rights’

The tennis superstar was seemingly subjected to gender discrimination during the final of the U.S. Open

On Saturday (September 8), the 50th U.S. Open concluded with a win for Japan’s Naomi Osaka, but the final – and Osaka’s first Grand Slam tennis victory – was overshadowed by controversy about how rival Serena Williams was treated by officials.

During the match, Williams was served a game penalty (meaning she had to forfeit an entire game to her opponent) by umpire Carlos Ramos, after he claimed that she had performed three violations: receiving coaching, smashing her racquet in frustration, and ‘verbally abusing’ the umpire for the two former decisions.

The ‘verbal abuse’ the umpire apparently suffered was Williams telling him, “I don’t cheat to win; I’d rather lose,” and calling him a “thief” after he penalised her a point for smashing her racquet. Her protestation at the penalty was presumably based on the fact that she was being treated differently to male players, who are often allowed to vent their on-court frustration with little consequence.

The gender element of the issue was backed up minutes later, when Williams defended herself, to another official, against Ramos’ claim of verbal abuse. “There are a lot of men out here who have said a lot of things and do not get that punishment,” Williams said. “Because I am a woman you are going to take this away from me? That is not right.”

Williams has recently been the focus of other gender-based controversy recently, when the president of the French Tennis Federation said that, under new rulings, her “Black Panther” catsuit (which helped prevent blood clots, btw) would be banned.

At a media conference following the match, Williams reiterated the unfairness of her treatment during the final, saying: “For me to say ‘thief,’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief’.”

She also acknowledged her ongoing activism against such inequality: “I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff.”

Always classy, though, Williams also discouraged booing (aimed at U.S. Open officials) during the presentation of Osaka’s trophy. “Let’s make this the best moment we can and we’ll get through it,” Williams said. “Let’s give everyone the credit where credit’s due.”