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Serena Williams blasts umpire she said is sexist, Twitter rallies around her

The tennis great has a history of calling out unfair treatment.


Ellen Ioanes


Posted on Sep 9, 2018   Updated on May 21, 2021, 6:57 am CDT

In a stunning upset, Serena Williams lost the U.S. Open finals to 20-year-old Haitian-Japanese player Naomi Osaka on Saturday night.  

But while the world now knows Osaka’s name and fans in her native Tokyo rejoice, a specter overshadowed her victory. Williams was penalized three times during the match by umpire Carlos Ramos. One of the code violations? She called him a “thief,” which cost Williams a game in the second set.

In her post-match press conference, Williams pointed out that she’d seen male players call umpires worse names, without receiving the same penalties.

Williams handled her loss with grace, encouraging Osaka and telling her fans not to boo during the trophy ceremony. However, coverage of the match focused on Williams’ frustration with the umpire. The BBC referred to Williams’ “meltdown” and “outbursts,” and the New York Daily News reminded readers that, “This wasn’t the first time Serena Williams faced controversy at the U.S. Open.”

But as Williams said on the court and reiterated afterward, she felt it imperative to stand up for women in the sport who, she maintains, are held to a different standard than men.

“He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief,'” Williams said. “But I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things.”

On the court, Williams referenced her young daughter and her continuing fight for gender parity.

“I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality and for all kinds of stuff,” Williams said later.

Tennis legend Billie Jean King took to Twitter to defend Williams.

As did Ellen DeGeneres.

Reese Witherspoon did, too.

And Chelsea Clinton,

Among others:

Williams has been criticized for being vocal on the tennis court before, and this isn’t her only controversy during this year’s Grand Slam circuit. She was banned from wearing a Black Panther-esque catsuit at future French Open tournaments, stirring up cries of racism, which she’s faced throughout her career.

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*First Published: Sep 9, 2018, 9:59 am CDT