The Facts Are In: Surprise! Serena Williams And Her Defenders Were Dead Wrong In Every Respect

It is rare that a public controversy that breaks down ideological lines actually has a resolution. The uproar over the sexist “double standards” a tennis umpire supposedly used against Serena Williams as she lost the U.S. Open championship (fair and square) to Naomi Osaka is just such a rarity. Although it should have been obvious on its face (Yes, it’s legal jargon, but I love it) that Serena was grandstanding to distract from her loss and posing as a gender rights crusader when she was really being an entitled celebrity jackass, social justice warriors fell all over themselves rationalizing her outburst, with columns titled, “Right message, wrong timing” at best,  and demands that the umpire and the U.S. Open owe Williams an apology for enforcing the rules at worst.

There’s no longer any valid  justification for debate. Williams was wrong; her defenders were biased, and it is they, not match umpire Carlos Ramos, who are obligated to apologize.

The New York Times isn’t always spinning for the Left. In a thorough article yesterday, it revealed that when the rampaging tennis diva protested to Brian Earley, the tournament referee, “There are men out here who do a lot worse than me, but because I’m a woman you are going to take this away from me? That is not right,” she was perpetrating a falsehood.

The Times actually looked at the data, something that should have been available to the public immediately after the Williams tantrum, but let’s be grateful for responsible journalism even when it’s suspiciously late. The conclusion: Serena’s accusation notwithstanding, “men appear to be fined proportionally more often than women for a variety of offenses.”

Here’s the Times chart:

The one exception is the infraction that set off the tirade: coaching from the stands, conduct that is specifically illegal. Women have received 152 fines over the 20-year span, compared with 87 for men. The Times speculates that one reason for the disparity may be that the WTA allows limited on-court coaching during its matches, though not from the stands, which is still regarded as cheating (because it is). The theory seems to be that this practice may lead female players to assume that mid-match coaching isn’t a big deal, and that the stands prohibition is just a technicality. My theory is that more female players get coached in matches. just as it is likely that more men get fined for throwing their rackets because more men do it.Never mind, however: the facts show that the “double standard” that Williams was caterwauling about doesn’t exist. If anything, it is the male players who are more harshly treated by referees.

I’ll be waiting for all the feminist warriors, and Serena, of course, to admit, “I guess I was wrong. I’m sorry.”

And waiting, and waiting, and waiting…


52 thoughts on “The Facts Are In: Surprise! Serena Williams And Her Defenders Were Dead Wrong In Every Respect

  1. I would be curious to know what the relative gender breakdown is among professional tennis players. Still, even if Men outnumbered women 3:1, the rate of infractions issued is at least par, and disproportionately impacts men as the gender ratio reaches 50-50.

      • Well….. I don’t know that there is enough data. What if men commit 20 times the infractions but are only penalized twice as much?

        You would have to know the number of violations actually committed by men and women, and the number actually called. I suspect women are penalized less for racket abuse because they actually abuse their rackets less. But do they abuse them 1/6 the rate of men? Or they do they abuse them 1/10 the time, which in theory would make them over-penalized? Or do they abuse them 1/3 the rate of men, which would make them under-penalized, all other things being equal?

        • Again, it doesn’t matter. She said that men weren’t punished for what she was. That’s wrong. She didn’t say, “Statistically speaking, a woman who does this is 17% more likely to be sanctioned than a male player.” All infractions are fact-specific.

          • Actually, given the quote you provided, she said that “there are men” who weren’t punished despite behaving worse. She did not claim that no men are ever punished for it. The existence of men who do get punished for it does not negate the existence of men who don’t.

            No one gathers statistics on infractions which go unpunished, as far as I know. I’m not even sure how you’d get such numbers. Without that, her statement is unverifiable.

            • THat’s not a claim of a double standard, however. There may be women who haven’t been punished too. For her argument to be about an alleged double standard, and to mean what she later claimed it to be, she had to be claiming systemic bias, and the figures show nothing of the kind.

        • That is the equivalent of saying what if blacks commit 20 times more crimes but are only penalized three times that of whites.

          “What if” has no role in this matter.

        • and maybe women do it more often and get away with it, but she didn’t and that’s what she is upset about. But it’s all hypothetical anyway, we all know the reason for her behavior was to meant to break her opponent’s concentration, just like Connors and McEnroe did years ago when losing.

      • You can’t conclude what the article is claiming based just on the data given. The question here isn’t just if men are sanctioned more than women but if men are sanctioned in proportion to their representation. For example, if one group is fined 10 times more than the other but has 20 times as many members then there’s potentially a statistical disparity. To reach a statistical conclusion in this case, you would also need to know the ratio of men to women.

        • (1) Not spinning and, (2) I don’t care about tennis. But, these numbers are meaningless because they are missing denominators. I’ll give you an EA example. Remember Scott? He gets the award for the most consistent foul language on this site — even with his multi-year hiatus. But you only cited him for his language a fraction of the time. (That’s fine, it’s your blog. I’m just saying denominators matter.)

          • Of course they matter. I’d say the stats strongly suggest that men misbehave more often than women. To make Serena’s point, however, they would have to mean that men misbehave constantly and outrageously. Don’t you think we would know if that was happening?

            It’s spinning. She made a completely unjustified accusation to impugn the official and excuse her own losing play, and everyone is saying its true because she said so, with no other data, even anecdotal. Yes, the Open proved that men and women are held to different standards when they change clothes on the court. Until someone finds a video of a male player being as much of an ass as Williams and getting away with it—and don’t think they haven’t been looking, Serena has no case.

            • Well, I don’t follow tennis, so I don’t have an opinion whether or not men are being called or not only a fraction of the time. The only item that peeved me about this incident was that cartoon.

    • Your understanding is wrong. The tantrum was set off by the coaching infraction, and later Williams made a similar complaint about being penalized for the “thief” comment. The entire context was “women are penalized more strictly than men.”

      I now understand that you don’t know what a straw man argument is. Why do you think the Times thought those statistics were relevant?

  2. Serena is so used to being worshipped — and winning — that her ego wouldn’t let it stand. She needs to grow up, understand the game (not just her game) better, and learn to be gracious. Poor losers are usually poor sports. She proved it. It has nothing to do with her gender.

  3. Williams said:

    “For me it blows my mind. But I’m going to continue to fight for women and to fight for us to have equality. I just feel like the fact that I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions, and that want to express themselves, and want to be a strong woman.”

    I say: What you are “going through” has nothing to do with anything but your own inability to control your behavior. I understand these things happen but spinning this tantrum into something you are doing for all women is completely dishonest. As a woman, I am not the scapegoat for your behavior nor do I need you to set the standard of how a strong woman with emotions behaves. Please just play tennis.

  4. Jack, do you happen to have access to the number of “coaching” violations that have been charged against Serena? I have no idea. However, while Serena’s coach said he definitely coached, she said she never saw him. If indeed she is not a cheater, then why would she look toward a guy that obviously can’t keep his hand signals in his pockets? Serena doesn’t need to cheat and seems proud of the fact that she doesn’t.

    Everything that followed stemmed from that charge.

    Next point. Since the Williams sisters started playing pro or even before, racism has never let up. Yet in tennis, players are expected to follow the rules and take the officials’ calls. Perhaps that’s why she would refer to sexism rather than racism. Who can say? I do know, and if you’re honest, so do you, that it has never been a level court for black players – especially strong black women. Yet the Williams Sisters have been exemplars of the gracious spirit of tennis. It just shows the uphill surface they tread when one scene of frustration brings us to this. Look how she treated her opponent when the match was over! That’s the Serena everyone should think about – unless there’s some other reason for focusing on her…

    • Unimpressed with the pandering toward Osaka after soiling her victory with the tantrum, and creating the situation that triggered the booing in the first place. It was like tripping someone and then “graciously” helping them up. How could you be taken in by that? It was so transparent…

  5. There’s a useful article at TennisAbstract, which includes stats on a per-match basis for men and women. They tell pretty much the same story as those cited in the NYT. They’re not conclusive in terms of a consideration of whether the same conduct would be penalized in a woman but not in a man, but they certainly don’t support an assertion that men aren’t penalized.

    • The only thing the stats show is that men aren’t penalized ever. That assertion it does prove false. They neither prove nor disprove anything else.

      • On the contrary. They indicate that the contention stated as fact in all of the pro-Serena articles is not supported by the statistics. As Bill James once wrote, if te elephant cane by in the snow, why aren’t there tracks?

        • And let’s review: the umpire she accused of being biased has been thoroughly checked, showing he has been just as strict with male players as with Williams. The Times review showed no evidence that women were penalized any differently that men. So why was her accusation treated by the players and the news media as anything but whining excuse-making on her part? It’s the assumption of victimhood, just because. Williams was the victim of a double standards because they want her to be, so they can complain about it. Evidence? Who needs evidence? It’s like the BLM assumption that any unarmed African American who is shot by a cop is the victim of racism.

        • I’m not a Serena supporter – those statistics in no way support her position. But they don’t support anybody’s position.

          • Simply not true. Again: if there was a palpable double standard, one could expect that there would be some indication of it. The fact that there is none means that what Williams said is pure, self-interested speculation. If it means “If see men get away with that SOMETIMES,” the proper response is what I wrote in the original essay: so what? The stats show they sure don’t get away with it all the time, and thus the allegation of a double -standard is baseless. That’s what “baseless” means. An opinion without facts to back it up.

            • But they don’t support the fact that there’s no double standard. Men may commit 20 times the violations and only get penalized 6 times as much. Or they may commit half the infractions and get called six times as much. On those numbers, you can’t tell anything.

              • Again: there is a rebuttable presumption from the stats that women are not penalized more harshly than men, because the stats don’t hint of it, and quite the contrary. Thus Serena and her supporters have the burden of proof…which they haven’t even tried to meet.

  6. “The Times speculates that one reason for the disparity may be that the WTA allows limited on-court coaching during its matches, though not from the stands, which is still regarded as cheating (because it is).”
    Is there any statistics anywhere that show the differences in coaching fines between men and women from before on court coaching became legal for women in 2006 and afterwards?

  7. This proves nothing. You don’t indicate how many players on each side got fined. One man out of 10 getting 10 fines vs. 10 women each getting a single fine could indicate bias, for example. You don’t indicate how many male players were compared to how many female players. In other words, are there more male players in general in professional tennis, therefore increasing the number of fines against males? You don’t indicate how many infractions go unfined on either side. A man who has 10 fines for 30 infractions indicates bias when a woman has 5 fines for 5 infractions. I think the only think you proved with this article is that you know nothing.

    • I don’t indicate anything. These are the game’s statistics. The burden is on Williams: she’s the one claiming bias, and the stats don’t support her. Because she says so is not evidence of anything, except her poor sportsmanship in picking a match she was losing to grandstand as an alibi.

    • Juju Wong said: “You don’t indicate how many male players were compared to how many female players.”
      These statistics are for grand slam tournaments where there are exactly the same number of players i.e. 128 men and 128 women. I don’t know if the statistics include doubles or qualifying but here again the numbers are equal.

  8. Not to mention, when’s the last time a man had a game taken away in the final of a Grand Slam Championship match by Ramos or any umpire. I’m sure in his years of being an umpire, he and other umpires have been called much worse without making resorting to such a drastic measure such as to indelibly alter the outcome of a high stakes match. While Osaka played beautifully, he had to know he was putting an asterisk next to her name for her very first Grand Slam victory, but yeah, Osaka’s a woman too, so oh well. He took that away from her too.

    • Juju Wong said: “I’m sure in his years of being an umpire, he and other umpires have been called much worse without making resorting to such a drastic measure such as to indelibly alter the outcome of a high stakes match.”
      After the third infraction the umpire had no choice but to hand a game to Serena’s opponent as that is what the rules demand. The fact that it is so rare means that other players manage to use some self control after the first or second infraction which Serena didn’t choose to do.

  9. To those continuing to try to spin away Serena’s rotten conduct: please stop. Occaam’s Razor applies: the simplest, most obvious way to interpret the data is that men are penalized more often because they act like Serena more often than the women do. For that level of disparity to exist and still have a culture where men are MORE leniently treated than women, we would have to see men routinely behaving like McEnroe, and only being punished when they go nuts on the court. It doesn’t happen. The accounts of matches don’t indicate that; there have been no articles about “Why are male players acting like insane thugs on the court?”

    Williams complained that men get away with behaving like she did. Then the feminist SJWs, whose main beef is that the inferior female players don’t earn as much as the men who they wouldn’t dare challenge in gender-neutral matches, which is nonsense, ethically and economically., chime in about inequality and bias. Because Serena says so, and that’s it. The stats don’t show that, the record doesn’t, nothing does, This is a presumption of bias based on nothing BUT the bias of the accusers.

    Just stop it. Serena and her defenders were wrong, because there is no evidence, data, videos or anything else that suggest they are were right. If this was a law suit,, it would be dismissed with prejudice. If it was a criminal prosecution, it would be a directed verdict of not guilty.

  10. Regarding the image at the top of the article, if I were a judge or referee, if ANY player brought out “lecturing parent finger” in a disagreement with me, I’d immediately toss them out of the game (or whatever the maximum in-game penalty any particular sport permits).

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