Before this week, for most sports fans, German tennis player Alexander Zverev’s name didn’t ring a bell. Others likely remember the domestic abuse allegations levied against him before the 2021 U.S. Open. But now, everyone should be aware as a recent video showed him cursing out an umpire and smashing a tennis racket against his chair during a match.
When you call an umpire a “f*cking idiot” and tell him, “You f*cking destroyed the whole f*cking match. The whole f*cking match, you destroyed,” it thrusts you on the world’s stage.
See for yourself.
The aftermath has left me wondering “what if?”
For instance, what if Serena Williams did that?
Well, it already kind of happened, and the double standard around what men — especially the white ones — and women — especially the Black ones — can get away with was a whirlwind exhibit of the double standards exhibited between genders and races.
The greatest tennis player of all time called out umpire Carlos Ramos at the U.S. Open during her 6-2, 6-4, defeat to Naomi Osaka, accusing him of sexism, because as we’ve seen before, and as Zverev proved again, men get to pretty much say and do whatever they want on the court. But if a woman does it, especially a Black one, she’s a villain.
Unladylike. Classless. Mean.
These are all things that have been said about Williams and were said about her that day. There was even an editorial cartoon drawn depicting her as some oversized creature.
Just imagine what would have happened if Williams did what Zverev did.
What if Naomi Osaka did what Alexander Zverev did?
The haters would have a field day. Last year, Osaka became one of the biggest faces of mental health in sports when she chose to pay a fine rather than do media at the French Open. But, that just made some people angry, as she eventually skipped the tournament altogether. Next came a conversation about the mental health of athletes and how some in the media/press felt as though they were either faking it or should be required to answer every question they’re asked. But, in the end, all it did was make a shy girl who just happens to be one of the best tennis players in the world pull back even more.
Just imagine what would have happened if Osaka did what Zverev did.
What if Coco Gauf did what Alexander Zverev did?
The wolves would come out and pounce on the 17-year-old phenom. How do I know? It’s already happened. When Gauf burst onto the scene in 2019 at the age of 15 after defeating Venus Williams before ultimately making it to the Round of 16 in her first appearance at Wimbledon, “they” immediately tried to turn her into the next Serena instead of her letting her be the first Coco. And in 2020, at the age of 16, she took to social media to express her heartbreak over George Floyd, showing the world the inevitable loss of innocence that every Black youth endures at some point.
Just imagine what would have happened if Gauf did what Zverev did.
What if Sloane Stephens did what Alexander Zverev did?
She’d be told to “shut up and serve.” After that, the haters would point out that she’s only won one Grand Slam singles title in her career — the 2017 U.S. Open — as if they’ve ever held that trophy, or any for that case. Stephens would be reminded of what she hasn’t done instead of praised for what she’s accomplished because she dared to do what men — especially the white ones — get to do, and get away with, all the time.
Just imagine what would have happened if Stephens did what Zverev did.
Sometimes it’s not about how bad an action is when a wrong has been done. It’s about asking “what if?” somebody else did the same thing, and imagining just how much worse the situation would be all because of the person’s race or gender.