LeBron James has weighed in on the Serena Williams controversy from the US Open that divided opinions.
Many critics believe her confrontation with chair umpire Carlos Ramos was unbecoming of a professional tennis player, and many supporters believe that ignores deeper-seated gender and race issues that influence that view.
James, who knows first-hand the microscope that superstar athletes find themselves under, told The Hollywood Reporter that he views the Williams saga through the lens of his daughter, Zhuri.
“What we all have to understand is what she is fighting for is bigger than just that match,” said James.
“She is fighting for equality — always having to win more, more, more, just to feel equal.
“Being an African-American woman playing in a predominantly white sport, she’s dealing with so much more.
“I have no idea what was going on in her head, but I feel that struggle.”
With Williams trailing Naomi Osaka 1-0 in the second set of her eventual 6-2, 6-4 loss in the U.S. Open final, Ramos issued the six-time US Open champion a warning for allegedly receiving signals from her coach.
Later in the set, Ramos cited her for breaking her racket in frustration, and when she called him a “thief” for penalising her a point, he issued a third violation that cost her a game.
Afterwards, Williams defended her actions, making the case that chair umpires treat her male counterparts with far more resiliency with respect to emotional outbursts in the heat of competition.
“He never took a game from a man because he said ‘thief,’” she said.
“For me, it blows my mind, but I’m going to continue to fight for women. … The fact I have to go through this is just an example for the next person that has emotions and wants to express themselves and wants to be strong woman.”
In LeBron’s eyes, that next woman could be his daughter.
Support and criticism of Serena Williams
Tennis icon Billie Jean King also applauded Serena for calling out sexism in the sport, and the Women’s Tennis Association stood behind their brightest star.
Meanwhile, criticism has ranged from mild to incendiary.
Martina Navratilova suggested “it wasn’t the right time” to cite sexism immediately following Osaka’s historical victory.
World No.25 Barbora Strycova slammed Williams for her “bulls***” meltdown, suggesting sexism had no part to play in it.
While Novak Djokovic said he thought Ramos pushed Williams too far, he also didn’t believe his rulings were gender-motivated. And the clearest example that created a ‘racist’ divide surrounding Williams came from an Australian newspaper cartoonist.
with Yahoo Sports US