For nearly any sport that employs an official to enforce rules, their role is the same. Once the competition starts, what they say goes.
That is a huge amount of power encompassing a wide range of responsibilities. They make split-second decisions that determine the outcome of a game and manage the personalities and conduct of the players. In all cases, you can argue if you want, but you’d better be prepared to accept the consequences.
In the controversy surrounding Serena Williams at the US Open, there are many, many factors at play. Williams, who will go down as the greatest to ever play the game, has dealt with attacks throughout her career based on everything from how she dresses to how she conducts herself. She no doubt felt that the behavior of chair umpire Carlos Ramos was yet another attack and that she had to defend herself.
But leaving behind the question of why and whether or not she was justified, Ramos is still the one in charge. Players disagree with umpires all the time, for any number of reasons, and if they get punished or ejected, then that’s just what happens.
MLB Hall-of-Famer Roberto Alomar was ejected, suspended, and fined after spitting on umpire John Hirschbeck in 1996. Alomar alleged Hirschbeck had used a racial slur, though neither man ever confirmed exactly what was said. Whatever it was, spitting on an umpire was considered a mortal sin in baseball that kept Alomar out of the Hall of Fame much longer than his playing career merited.
The Williams and Alomar examples are extreme cases. But players and officials have smaller disagreements every second of every game. How does a player stand up for him or herself while still showing restraint?
What’s Your Take?
Take 1: Respect officials at all times
The official is there to do a job and enforce the rules. You can disagree with it all you want, but keep it to yourself. It is one thing in an individual sport like tennis where you are only hurting yourself, but getting ejected in a team sport hurts the entire team. If an official is being abusive or truly operating outside of the rules, then that is something to handle later.
Take 2: Protect yourself first
Just because an official is “in charge” doesn’t meant they have the right to be a bully. Athletes should be expected to call out abusive behavior. It is still just a game, and not worth somebody treating you with anything less than full respect. Lose a point or get kicked out of a game if it means doing what is right.
So should athletes always capitulate to officials? Or do they need to stand up for themselves should the occasion arise? Have your say in the comments below.
From GameChanger and Todd Kortemeier
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