Following umpire Carlos Ramos’ interference in the 2018 U.S. Open ﬁnal between Serena Williams and Naomi Ōsaka, The Women’s March Black Leadership Action Coalition (WM-BLAC) is calling for the International Tennis Association to investigate gender and racial bias within its ranks and is rallying tennis fans across the globe to #StandWithSerena.
Comprised of Black Women’s March leaders across the national network, WM-BLAC launched the website, www.istandwithserena.com, featuring a WM-BLAC statement of solidarity for Williams, a demand for an investigation of the ITA and partial expungement of the monetary penalty levied against her, as well as tools to empower the public to sign on to the statement and graphics to share with hashtags #StandWithSerena and #WMBLAC.
“This was an opportunity to celebrate two black women at the top of professional tennis. Instead the electric, consequential and career deﬁning game was wrested by a man on the sidelines. The Women’s March Black Leadership Action Coalition (WM-BLAC) strongly denounces the actions of umpire Carlos Ramos at September 8th’s U.S. Open match between Serena Williams and Naomi Ōsaka as sexist and racist. We recognize that Black women are too often prejudiced against by the twin biases of race and gender, with little to no advocacy in seeking justice after a traumatizing incident.” said Agunda Okeyo, NYC Women’s March Chapter Co-Chair and WM-BLAC co-founder.
Umpire Carlos Ramos is widely known as a “stickler for the rules,” but when rules are applied with implicit bias, they serve not to uphold a sport, but double down on rules that perpetuate inequality. Ramos imposed a series of warnings and penalties on Williams that very well may have cost her the game. It also eclipsed a masterful victory from ultimate winnerŌsaka, attaining her ﬁrst Open championship. Ōsaka, in fact, made history as the ﬁ rst Haitian and Japanese player to win the renowned competition.
Specifically, WM-BLAC is demanding that the $17,000 penalty charges levied against Ms. Williams be expunged of the $10,000 charge for verbal abuse and the $4,000 charge for coaching.
Additionally, WM-BLACK insists that the umpire Carlos Ramos be investigated for gender and racial bias. Finally the group demands that an independent commission be formed to investigate gender and racial bias in the International Tennis Federation.
In the era of Time’s Up and #MeToo, women are no longer waiting to be believed. WM-BLAC seeks to compel consistent and strategic action on behalf of black women’s dignity throughout the calendar year, while offering leadership, empowerment and support for important issues that directly affect black women.
Women’s March Sacramento President and co-founder of WM-BLAC Jasper James shared their thoughts, saying, “Black women across the globe recognize that Williams was standing for a reputation that she has spent her entire lifetime building. As a life long tennis fan, I am all too familiar with the level of disrespect that has followed Serena from the very onset of her multi decade career to now. Ms. Williams has tirelessly stood for Black women everywhere, now it’s our chance to return the favor. The WM-BLAC demands justice for our sister Serena and the blatant double standard that she is facing.”
The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) CEO Steve Simon a statement in support of Williams and Osaka while condemning any gendered double standard. It is time for the International Tennis Federation to do the same. The monumental game on Saturday was a clear illustration of sexist double standards in tennis. Men are often coached, break rackets and joust with umpires without consequence or perhaps admonitions. Further umpire Ramos betrayed typical sexist behavior by using his position of authority to exact a personal vendetta against Williams for a claim of “verbal abuse” when she rightfully called him “a thief.”
The IFT umpires have begun talks as to whether or not they will boycott future Williams matches. WM-BLAC ﬁnds this absolutely preposterous and asks that tennis fans across the globe #StandWithSerena by posting their moments of staring down sexism and double standards with a call to the ITF to investigate bias within its organization. Women in all workplaces experience abuse of power at an alarming scale, and this match was no different. From tennis courts to boardrooms across America, women have had enough. We insist on seeing real change to a double standard for all women, especially women of color.