Professional tennis has long been esteemed in the sports world as a standard of excellence in terms of gender equality due to the extensive history of fighting for equal pay for equal play. However, assessing inequalities in pay for tournament prize money is only the beginning of what needs to be addressed in terms of gender disparities in the sport.
Serena Williams, a recent mother and phenom in the world of tennis has dealt time and time again with issues that wouldn't be presented had she had been a white male. Seems harsh, however, it is entirely true.
In light of recent controversy surrounding Serena William's upsetting loss in the championship round of the U.S. Open, we are reminded once again that the professional tennis stage is not an equal playing field or court.
During the match, the umpire accused Serena of taking hand gestures from her coach sitting in the stands. At this point in the match, she was already down a set and needed to bounce back in the second to have a fighting chance of playing the third set. This accusation stunned Serena into a tirade that was fueled by her desire to fight for the future rights of tennis players.
She responded to the umpire, "You stole a point from me and you are a thief." This response was retaliated by a penalty ruling after smashing her racquet and further renunciation of Serena towards the umpire, "I have a daughter and I stand for what's right for her."
This behavior has been seen countless times in men's tennis, to the extent that it has been normalized in society. Yet a woman who is playing the exact same sport with the exact same rules is humiliated in the name of double standards.
As said by Christine Brennan, a CNN sports analyst, "We know that there's quite a history to it. Think of John McEnroe, think of Ilie Nastase, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi. These men all berated chair umpires, famously so. Commercials have been made. McEnroe has done 'You can't be serious' and all the other tirades top of his lungs over the years and none of them received a game penalty."
Poignantly said by the famous tennis player and activist in the world of tennis, Billie Jean King completely nails the issue right on its ugly head. King is a well-known advocate for gender equality and has long been a pioneer for social justice. In 1973 she beat the 55-year-old Bobby Riggs in the "Battle of the Sexes" tennis match at only 29.
This battle to prove equality in a sport commercialized by its national headquarters, the United States Tennis Association (USTA), has been producing commercials throughout the entirety of the tournament, touting the equality of genders in an advertisement specifically aimed at young players. This marketing tactic has been the source of a series of commercials with titles such as, "Net Generation: Greatness is Waiting" which cuts between scenes of young boys and girls of mixed races playing the sport and saying quotes such as, "Just give me a racquet and watch me go."
Well, USTA, how can you commercialize a sport with children actors depicted as equals, yet allow behavior at the professional level which reduces this proposed value, and results in hypocrisy and disparity?