Double Standards in Athletics

Reported by Danielle Brown

On Sep. 8, an emotionally exhausting and wild turn of events overshadowed the win of Naomi Osaka who beat her idol, Serena Williams, and claimed the Women’s U.S. Open.

Williams was charged with a $17,000 fine for three violations of the Code of Conduct during the match.

The first penalty was awarded at the beginning of the second set for a coaching violation. This is defined as “communications of any kind, audible or visible, between a player and a coach” in the 2018 Grand Slam Code of Conduct.

Williams’ responded that she doesn’t “cheat to win, [she’d] rather lose”.

Shortly after, Williams received a second penalty for throwing her racket onto the ground, resulting in a point penalization. She received a third penalty for verbally abusing the chair umpire, Carlos Ramos, calling him a “thief” and resulting in a game penalization.

By this point, Williams didn’t seem to care about the penalties but was rather offended by the fact that Ramos did not withdraw the coaching penalty. She was upset that it would have a negative insinuation on her character and accused Ramos of being sexist.

Williams later commented that she is “fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality.”

Billie Jean King, a former number one women’s professional tennis player in the world, tweeted that “When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it. When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ & and there are no repercussions. Thank you, @serenawilliams, for calling out this double standard. More voices are needed to do the same.”

Both influential women are calling out a double standard in tennis and claiming to lead the fight for equality, but were Ramos’ actions really sexism or were all three violations warranted because of Williams ‘behavior? It can be argued that men have done much worse in the past, a point Williams also made.

Is this debate something that involves student athletes at George Fox University (GFU)?

For the majority, no. In a survey conducted of members of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), most of the responses indicated that there were no double standards between genders that played the same sport at GFU. The biggest area of concern was that publicity of sports favored either men or women, something expressed by half of the respondents.

The survey covered several specific areas, including equipment and facility use, sportsmanship and referees, and publicity. Of the 117 combined questions that were answered, only 29 indicated anything about a double standard. SAAC members also admitted that though they felt that it is nearly impossible to treat everyone with complete fairness, GFU finds the balance.

In response to concerns of double standards, the Associate Director of Athletics, Elise Trask, said that, “I think it's possible to have equality within all of our programs, but the challenge with equality is that we are assuming that all programs are starting from the same place and need the exact same things to be successful. I believe that our job as athletic administrators is to make sure that there is equity in all of our programs and that means that we provide each program with what it takes to be successful. Equity looks different from program to program, but as long as we keep our mission of athletic excellence, academic success, and Christ-like character as our compass, we can make decisions that promote an incredible student-athlete experience in all of our sports programs.”

Director of Athletics, Adam Puckett, also responded, saying, “I believe we can achieve equality in our athletic department and I don't believe we are that far off. There are certainly areas where we are looking to improve and situations that arise that must be dealt with. But as a whole, I am proud of the department and the opportunities that we provide for both genders to achieve athletic excellence, academic success and Christ-like character.”

Jessica Daugherty