The U.S. Open has experienced backlash this week for restricting the attire of one of their women players. This was on the heels of the French Open prohibiting Serena Williams from wearing her black catsuit on court — which was designed to help deal with her post-pregnancy blood clots — and now Alizé Cornet was penalized for exposing her bra during a match at the U.S. Open. Tennis fans are deeming it an act of sexism, stating that it’s an unfair act of policing women’s bodies in a way that male athletes don’t experience.
It all started when Cornet took her mandatory 10-minute heat break during the match that was played at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. When she came back onto court, she realized her top was on backwards. In order to fix it, she turned her back to the tennis net and took off her top, putting it back on the right way. During the process her sports bra was exposed, which led the umpire to issue her a penalty, citing a code violation. As a reaction, Cornet spread her arms in a questioning manner while looking back down at her top.
Citing a Women’s Tennis Association rule, the umpire believed women players are only allowed to take off their shirts away from the court in a private space— but there is no equivalent rule for the male athletes.
This was a point that many fans pointed out in social media, stating that male tennis players often take off their shirts while on court without any such penalties. For example, tennis player Rafael Nadal takes off his top while still on court regularly. The reason he does so is because he gets cold thanks to the drying sweat, but has never been reprimanded for doing so.
"I don’t want to get cold. That’s the reason," he shared in an interview. You can see evidence of this at the 58 second mark in the video below.
In response to the public pushback against the penalty, the U.S. Open officials issued a statement on Aug. 29 apologizing for the infraction.
"All players can change their shirts when sitting in the player chair. This is not considered a Code Violation,. We regret that a Code Violation was assessed to Ms. Cornet yesterday. We have clarified the policy to ensure this will not happen moving forward," the statement said. "Fortunately, she was only assessed a warning with no further penalty or fine. Female players, if they choose, may also change their shirts in a more private location close to the court, when available. They will not be assessed a bathroom break in this circumstance."
The Women’s Tennis Association also chimed in, stating that their rules were incorrectly cited by the umpire. “It was not based on a WTA rule, as the WTA has no rule against a change of attire on court. The WTA has always been and always will be a pioneer for women and women’s sports," the Association clarified. "This code violation came under the Grand Slam rules and we are pleased to see the USTA has now changed this policy. Alizé did nothing wrong.” While the situation has had a positive ending, the call should not have been made to begin with.
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