Cape Town - Top international rugby referee Nigel Owens has shared his views on Serena Williams' outburst in the US Open final earlier this month.
In a much-publicised meltdown in this year's final against Japan's Naomi Osaka, Williams called chair umpire Carlos Ramos and 'liar' and 'thief' which eventually led to her third violation - and being penalised a game.
After losing the final, Williams continued her argument by labelling Ramos 'sexist'.
Owens, who also copped criticism for the manner in which he officiated last Saturday’s Test between the All Blacks and Springboks in Wellington, defended Ramos in a column for the Wales Online website.
“She (Williams) crossed the line with the total disrespect shown to umpire Carlos Ramos during her US Open defeat to Naomi Osaka. As a role model, who so many youngsters look up to, the best thing she could do is hold up her hands and apologise for that behaviour," Owens wrote.
Owens said he struggled to understand Williams’ accusation of sexism.
“In calling Ramos a 'thief', and accusing him of sexism, Serena was in effect calling a highly respected official a cheat. One, by the way, who has no history for that sort of thing and who has handled matches, men and women, perfectly fairly and with integrity. Ramos has a reputation of being a ridiculously strict umpire, in men's and women's tennis.”
Owens, who is openly gay, used his own orientation as an example to illustrate why he felt Williams was wrong to state Ramos’ behaviour was sexist.
“Imagine someone said something to me which I didn't like and I called it homophobic, when it wasn't, because I knew that would give more weight to the accusation. I'd view that as unacceptable behaviour on my part. It's something I would never do.
“It's wrong, but I also wouldn't do it because it takes away from the real issues we do need to address. In a way, Serena is belittling the sexism debate, when there are people who should be properly called out for that kind of thing, homophobia or racism. Her actions do not particularly help that cause because what Ramos did was not sexist.”
READ the full column on the Wales Online website