On a recent episode of Victoria Secret’s VS Voices podcast, tennis superstar Naomi Osaka expressed her frustrations with the discriminatory behavior that women face in pro sports.
Back in 2018, as we previously reported at The Root, Osaka faced off against Serena Williams during the women’s singles final at the U.S. Open. Sadly, their epic showdown was marred by chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who engaged in a verbal altercation with Williams that eventually led to the U.S. Tennis’ Association fining the 23-time Grand Slam champion a total of $17,000 for three code violations.
The controversy painted a dark cloud over Osaka’s victory, and in revisiting the ordeal on VS Voices, the 24-year-old made it clear that if a male tennis player had conducted themselves in a similar fashion, things would’ve gone entirely different.
“Definitely if a male player did that, it wouldn’t have been so broadcasted,” Osaka told host Amanda de Cadenet when asked about the repercussions for Williams and subsequent backlash to her response. “There’s actually been male players that have done far worse, like literally last year and this year, and they don’t get news reports at all.”
“So I’m not sure if it’s because Serena is Serena, or if people just wanted to write negative things. I definitely felt like I can’t say that if we were both male players the outcome would have been the same way.”
Continuing, she added, “But I do know that people are very interested in Serena and whatever she does is going to get news attention. And it was just unfortunate that it had to be that moment that caught a lot of people’s interest.”
Since withdrawing from the French Open in May, Osaka has kept a low profile as she’s focused on prioritizing her mental health. In June, she then withdrew from Wimbledon for similar reasons before finally returning to the court for the Tokyo Olympics—where she suffered a shocking loss to former French Open finalist Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic during the third round.
As an outspoken athlete who frequently uses her platform to address important issues impacting our society, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Osaka is still deeply disturbed by what transpired back in 2018. But by continuing to draw attention to the disparity in how male and female athletes are treated, hopefully we’ll one day be in a place where these disparities no longer exist.