In Case You Missed It
Alize Cornet, a French tennis player competing in the US Open, was penalized Tuesday for briefly removing her shirt to switch it around as it was backwards when she returned from a 10 minute heat break. I assume heat exhaustion and rushing back to the court in the time allowed resulted in her accidentally putting on her shirt backward. This is what people saw.
Scandalous? Apparently enough so to earn her a code violation for “unsportsmanlike conduct” during her match against Sweden’s Johanna Larsson. The penalty consisted of a warning but not a loss of points since it was her first offense.
Apparently the rules of tennis state that although men can change their shirts courtside, women must return to the locker room to do so. Having already used her 10 minute heat break to put on fresh clothes, Alize took approximately 10 seconds to switch her shirt around rather than ask for another break, which would further delay a long hot day.
Why the rule?
Boobs. Yes woman have boobs. Guess what, men also have chests with nipples. So this sweaty hairy-ness is ok. Eww, btw.
But this is not ok?
So technically she broke a rule but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures.
A Brief History of Boob Oppression
It was 1999 and Brandi Chastain had just scored the winning penalty shot making the US Women’s Soccer Team the 1999 World Cup Champions. She ripped off her jersey in celebration (as many male soccer players do) and swung it around her head before falling to her knees. Then people lost their minds. She was accused of being disrespectful (unlike the men), accused of shifting the focus from the game to herself, and some even suspected it was a stunt paid for by Nike due to the tiny swoosh on her sports bra. Why all this controversy over an organic act of thankfulness and celebration? Boobs. Nineteen years have gone by and we have made so little progress.
Women are forced behind closed doors and hot “modesty clothes” to nurse their infants. Girls are told to wear two sports bras to suppress bounce in dance performances. (I personally witnessed this in my town.) Those who choose to ban the bra are slut shamed. Why, in America in particular, are breasts such a big deal?
The Official in Question
Christian Rask is the umpire responsible for imposing the penalty on Alize Cornet. Mr. Rask is from Denmark. I find this funny because I lived in Denmark for 3 months the summer before I turned 16, and there is a lot of nudity in Denmark. Nudity is no big deal on television and nude sunbathing and swimming is allowed for both men and women at beaches and even at public pools. Maybe Mr. Rask was following the letter of the law set down by the US Tennis Association, but a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct seems extreme under the circumstances. Male tennis player Novak Djokovic remained shirtless for minutes as he indulged in an on court ice bath. He was not accused of disrespecting the sport.
Respect and Tradition
Some sports are just more hoity toity than others. A certain amount of decorum is associated with tennis, golf, and equestrian sports, to name a few. Even spectators at these events might be expected to dress to impress, sip their prosecco and clap daintily for their favorite athletes. The behavior of the fans and athletes is expected to be quite different from say, an American football game. We expect football fans to guzzle beer, paint their faces team colors and whoop and holler in the stands. Football players dance in the end zone, strut, yell, smack each other on the butt, get DUIs, sorry I digress.
My daughter is a competitive equestrian. Tradition dictates her competition attire. Competing in 90+ degree temperatures through the summer, she is expected to wear long pants, tall leather boots, a high neck shirt, a dark color sport coat (often wool), gloves and a helmet. I have seen children pass out from heat at competitions. In some circumstances a judge may announce that he/she has chosen to “excuse jackets”. This is a true gift for the athletes and their concerned parents. Yes sports have rules but sometimes we must make allowances. Dealing with wardrobe issues does not show disrespect for a sport. I guess Alize could have decided to play with her shirt on backwards but I can’t imagine the discomfort, as if things were not already uncomfortable enough with the heat.
I am a fairly modest person. I will probably never attend a Free the Nipple event clad only in body paint, but that’s my choice. In one desperate moment I removed my shirt in public leaving me in a sports bra. I was dog sitting for my neighbors and their smallest and most vicious dog dug under the fence and was on the loose. She did not like me but I needed to catch her. Fearing she would bite, I pulled off my shirt, caught up with the dog and threw it over her head to safely transport her back home. (Totally saw that on The Crocodile Hunter, thank you Steve Irwin, RIP.)
If a tennis player wants to leave the court to fix their attire, that should be their choice. If they don’t want to waste the time of officials, fans and their opponent and just deal with it quietly and efficiently, they should not be penalized.
Alize Cornet did not win her match. Was she so distracted by the penalty that it affected her playing? Maybe, maybe not. She is a professional and I would imagine there are many times one needs to suck it up and focus on the game. The Women’s Tennis Association criticized the US Open officials for the code violation as the WTA has no rule against changing attire courtside. Wednesday the USTA clarified their policy to state that all athletes may change shirts while seated in the player chair or a female player may choose to leave the court to change in a nearby private location. See, that wasn’t so hard.