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Serena’s U.S. Open Match Shows Change Comes from Strength, Not SilenceSeptember 10, 2018
It would be safe to say that the majority of viewers watching the U.S. Open Women’s Tennis Final on Saturday, September 8th were not watching because of newcomer Naomi Osaki, but were watching the iconic Serena Williams. After all, she is not only one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time, but also one of the greatest athletes of all time. She was appearing in her first major final since giving birth to her daughter. However, to all of us Serena stands for so much more: she is a powerful and emblematic role model. She defines not just a woman and mother’s strength and perseverance, but an athlete who when given the spotlight in the sports world, uses that power to influence public policy. This past Saturday, she did just that.
What happened in the Final to Serena was not about being deducted a point, the deduction of a game, or whether Serena lost or won. Yes, it is true, Serena was down the first set and losing in the second set; however, because she called the chair umpire a “thief” when he deducted a point from her, she was then deducted a game and went down 5 games to 3 in the second set, going on to lose the second set 6 to 4 and ultimately the match to Naomi Osaki.
The fact that she lost is not what is important. What stands out is that Serena did not hesitate to speak her mind to the male chair umpire who took away the point and game. She showed her courage as not just a passionate athlete, but a strong woman and role model. She pointed out that if a man made those same comments to the male chair umpire, he would not have been deducted a game. Whether she was out of line or not (and she was fined $17,000 for speaking her mind), Serena used her spotlight to stand up for what she believes in. While the timing was not ideal, there is no such thing as the perfect time to stand up for such issues as gender equality.
- There is no place in society for men or women being treated differently based on his or her sex. If John McEnroe or Andy Murray told a chair umpire that they were robbed of a point at a major tennis tournament final, they would not have been deducted a point. The fact that Serena did, and we are still talking about it today gives me hope that society is taking notice and wants to push even harder for gender equality.
- If you ever want to effectuate change in public policy, whether it is in relation to a law or even a tennis rule based on gender inequality or otherwise, change comes from speaking your mind even at the most inopportune times. I am sure Serena did not anticipate nor want to have to call out the chair umpire at the end of a U.S. Open Final on national tv, but sometimes change comes when you least expect it.
- Role models like Serena Williams do not come often. She is more than just an athlete. She is a woman, a mother, an advocate of women’s rights, a believer in gender equality, and someone who is not afraid at the worst of times to stand up and use her voice for millions of little girls and boys to take notice. That is impressive. That is Serena.