Former umpire alleges racism in USTA - TennisForum.com
Reply
 
LinkBack Thread Tools
post #1 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 06:48 PM Thread Starter
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 35,497
                     
Former umpire alleges racism in USTA

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13249621/

NEW YORK - Cecil Hollins, the only African American among 30 or so gold badge tennis umpires in the world, was whacking tennis balls with another black umpire in the early morning hours before the start of play at the 1998 U.S. Open.

White umpires played on either side. But a white groundskeeper walked straight toward the black umpires.

Using a racial epithet, the groundskeeper ordered the black men to "get off the court," according to the sworn testimony of both umpires.

Hollins had refereed matches with Pete Sampras and Boris Becker and John McEnroe -- and even the brattiest stars had praised him. He often questioned why the U.S. Tennis Association would not assign him to umpire a men's singles final, an honor never accorded to a black man. But he knew how to keep his cool.

So Hollins walked off the practice court and reported the incident to the USTA.

But in the years since, the USTA stripped Hollins, 50, of his gold, silver, bronze and white umpire's badges. Three years ago, the association terminated him as an umpire. Hollins and a black female umpire have responded by suing the USTA, alleging racial, sex and age discrimination.

Now five members of Congress and several prominent civil rights and women's organizations have rallied to the side of the black umpires. They point to what they call a disturbing pattern.
No black man or woman in the history of the U.S. Open has umpired a men's semifinal or final singles match. Nor has a female umpire worked on any of the top 16 male matches at the U.S. Open, a point recently acknowledged in court papers filed by the USTA.

Of the 2,000 umpires certified by professional tennis's ruling bodies, less than 1 percent are black.

"I was the first gold-badge black umpire ever, and if I didn't have a conscience and could ignore that so many blacks and women are being discriminated against, I'd still be umpiring important matches," said Hollins, who serves as an administrative law judge with the state housing agency in New York.

Chris Widmaier, director of public relations for the U.S. Tennis Association, declined to comment on the case. Nor would he provide the number of black and female judges who work for the USTA nor the rounds and matches that those umpires had worked. The U.S. Open is the most prestigious tennis tournament in the United States, and it begins in late August.

"Obviously, we're not going to comment because of the litigation," Widmaier said.
New York City has given the USTA an exclusive 99-year-lease to run the public U.S. Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow. The association takes the lion's share of the profits from stadium, court and parking fees, as well as from food and merchandising revenue.

Last month, the USTA's attorney, Darrell S. Gay of DLA Piper Rudnick Gray Cary, wrote a four-page letter to Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) in which he declined to provide any information on the association's hiring of blacks and women or on how it assigns umpires to matches. But he accused Hollins's attorney, Gary Ireland, of "contacting every possible press contact he can identify."

Gay contended that Ireland and Hollins are motivated by "an apparent desire to receive significant economic benefit as opposed to . . . improvement for equal opportunities in sport."

Maloney said Gay's letter missed the point. The USTA runs a public court, she noted, and so has a special obligation to run an equal-opportunity workplace.

"The USTA is the face of tennis in America and it's important that they respond . . . quickly and fully," Maloney wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post. "The public needs to be assured that an umpire's gender or ethnicity won't prevent them from working at the highest levels of their sport."

Professional tennis has long struggled with the race question. For centuries, the greatest players of tennis -- the favorite sport of the French and British aristocracy -- came out of private, all-white clubs. Professional tennis did not integrate until 1950, when such pioneers as Althea Gibson (who won the U.S. Open in 1957 and 1958) and, later, Arthur Ashe played in the tour.

The USTA in the past decade has embarked on a program to promote tennis, and it says that last year 1.1 million people played the sport for the first time, "of which 2 out of 5 people were of multicultural background."

But the success of such modern black stars as Venus and Serena Williams obscures the fact that the professional tour still has just a handful of black players.

"The tennis establishment likes to pat itself on the back for its minority tennis programs, but it's not translating into the professional ranks," said Sundiata Djata, a professor of history at Northern Illinois University and author of "Blacks at the Net: Black Achievement in the History of Tennis." "There are fewer blacks at the high end than in the 1970s."

Hollins is an unlikely rebel. A freckle-faced, lean and personable man, with a head of neat braids, he played a strong game of tennis in college. He became a lawyer and, while on vacation, took a shot at line umpiring. He loved it. For four years, he traveled across the nation and Europe, seeking out matches and schools for umpires.

By 1994, Hollins had acquired a gold badge. That was only three years after he reached the prestigious position of chair umpire, making his one of the fastest progressions in tennis history. He soon had Grand Slam credentials -- Wimbledon, the French Open and the Australian Open, as well as the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. "I was out there umpiring matches with McEnroe, Becker and [Andre] Agassi," he recalls. "It was excitement beyond belief."

He envisioned sitting on the umpire's chair in Arthur Ashe Stadium overseeing the finals of the men's singles. Tennis-savvy black friends tamped down his expectations. "They told me, 'Cecil, don't get too excited. They don't let blacks work top matches.'

"I said, 'Naaaah, I'm a likable guy.' "

An umpire's life is a precarious one. If a star player takes a dislike to an umpire, that umpire might not get assigned to prominent matches. In the 2001 U.S. Open, the Australian tennis player Lleyton Hewitt complained that a black line judge favored James Blake, a player of mixed heritage. ("Look at him and look at him, and you tell me what the similarity is," Hewitt demanded of the umpire).

The USTA did not discipline Hewitt, and the line umpires in his next match were white, a result that officials attributed to random computerized assignments.

Hollins rarely encountered a problem with a player. But he began to speak out internally, asking why the USTA had not placed more blacks and women in the umpire chair for prominent matches. Then came the incident at U.S. Open in 1998, in which he says the white groundskeeper hurled a racial insult at him and Alvin Penelton, a black umpire from East St. Louis.

Hollins reported the incident to the USTA and, later, he spoke with the director of officials, Richard Kaufman. Hollins gave this version of that conversation: "Kaufman told us, 'You're lucky you're not thrown out of the tournament. Get out of my office!' "

USTA officials would not comment on this or any other incident.

Penelton, who has retired from Anheuser-Busch Inc. in St. Louis and still works major tournaments as a line umpire, backed up Hollins's account.

"It's hard to believe, but that's the way it happened," he said in an interview. "Cecil was moving too fast for them. He had gone to the top of the game in no time, and he had the sort of personality that attracted people."

Penelton paused, and added: "Race? I've got to say that's the bottom line, unfortunately."

Hollins was demoted and denied assignments in the next few years. In 2005, he stood by the Arthur Ashe statue outside the tennis center in Queens and wrapped his waist in chains and raised his fist, while supporters handed out leaflets explaining the situation.

"I could have done what black people do all the time in everyday life: Take it without saying a word," Hollins said. "But if Colin Powell can be secretary of state, and Hillary Clinton can run for president, doesn't it make sense they should be able to umpire a men's singles final at the U.S. Open?"
RiskeFan1 is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
post #2 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 06:55 PM
Team WTAworld
 
Kenny's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 17,642
                     
Wow. Totally needs to be changed. I believe this man, whole-heartedly.
Kenny is offline  
post #3 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 07:48 PM
Senior Member
 
Denise4925's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Basking in Serena's Glory
Posts: 30,854
                     
Who knew?? Wow. I was planning on going to the US Open this year, but now after reading this, do I really want to contribute to this climate?
Denise4925 is offline  
 
post #4 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 08:04 PM
Senior Member
 
kosmikgroove's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: USA
Posts: 1,176
                     
I remember hearing that there has never been a female umpire in the Finals of a men's GS, but this news is just utterly shocking and distrubing.

I hope it gets resolved soon... It never surprises me when an age old institution which acts at the forefront of public attention in their respective fields of interest, are ironically ass-backwards.
kosmikgroove is offline  
post #5 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 08:11 PM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: The Great Northwoods
Posts: 10,806
                     
Lleyton Hewitt needs a kick in the ass, and it sounds like the USTA needs some serious house-cleaning. Sickening.

"When we are young we generally estimate an opinion by the size of the person that holds it, but later we find that is an uncertain rule, for we realize that there are times when a hornet's opinion disturbs us more than an emperor's" - Mark Twain

"The noblest work of God? Man. Who found it out? Man." - Mark Twain

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." - H.L. Menken
meyerpl is offline  
post #6 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 08:29 PM Thread Starter
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 35,497
                     
For the record, the USTA's comment about random computer selection for the linesmen regarding what court they get put in is total bullshit. If you're less experienced or not as good, they stick you in the qualifying or on the back courts of the main draw. The showcourts are for the people who know what they're doing. Period.

In a few rare cases though, players will request a certain linesmen or ballkid to be at their age. Lindsay always has a particular boy that she likes work her matches at the US Open. She even gave him a hug after she lost to Clijsters at the US Open a couple of years ago.
RiskeFan1 is offline  
post #7 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 08:30 PM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Sep 2001
Posts: 24,943
                     
The U.S. Open series starts in a month or so. The USTA had better get out in front of this story one way or another. And the arguement that a plaintiff is motivated by financial gain is disingenuous. The USTA isn't disputing the truth of his accusations at all. ANd while many people and organizations refuse to comment of pending litigation, they do usually make a point of proclaming their innocence.

And now that a bunch of professional grandstanders predatory slime self-interested attention-hogs highly altruistic politicians have been added to the mix, it'll be a harder story to kill.

This is gonna end with, "We don't admit there is a problem. We don't admit there was a problem. But we fixed it. And we don't admit that we paid the people who sued us either, but they'll never work another day in their lives."

Proud to be an American
Not blind. Not uninformed. We are party to atrocities. But the response of the world after 9/11 is worth noting. Even our most dire enemies offered aid. We should all be so lucky.
Volcana is offline  
post #8 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 08:37 PM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: The Great Northwoods
Posts: 10,806
                     
Quote:
Originally Posted by Volcana
The U.S. Open series starts in a month or so. The USTA had better get out in front of this story one way or another. And the arguement that a plaintiff is motivated by financial gain is disingenuous. The USTA isn't disputing the truth of his accusations at all. ANd while many people and organizations refuse to comment of pending litigation, they do usually make a point of proclaming their innocence.

And now that a bunch of professional grandstanders predatory slime self-interested attention-hogs highly altruistic politicians have been added to the mix, it'll be a harder story to kill.
This is gonna end with, "We don't admit there is a problem. We don't admit there was a problem. But we fixed it. And we don't admit that we paid the people who sued us either, but they'll never work another day in their lives."
Excellent post, all of it.

"When we are young we generally estimate an opinion by the size of the person that holds it, but later we find that is an uncertain rule, for we realize that there are times when a hornet's opinion disturbs us more than an emperor's" - Mark Twain

"The noblest work of God? Man. Who found it out? Man." - Mark Twain

"Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats." - H.L. Menken
meyerpl is offline  
post #9 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 08:40 PM
Senior Member
 
eugreene2's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 1,800
                     
This is why, as silly as he may act sometimes, I'm glad Richard Williams is the way he is. In as much as Venus & Serena's stardom has shielded them from some racism, I also believe the USTA knows that Richard Williams would cause a nation-wide ruckus if they tried some racist BS. This is another reason they are correct for never going back to IW. Because they are such stand-up girls, I'm sure we'll never even know some of the racist stuff that happens on tour, let alone with umpires.
eugreene2 is offline  
post #10 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 08:41 PM
Senior Member
 
pigam's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: belgium
Posts: 7,431
                     
wow! this is bad

Hope there will be more brave people like this man who will make this public, it's the only way to generate enough pressure to change it, probably.

J u s t i n e x p l i c a b l e


Justine: feb. 5, 2007:

"I hung on to tennis. I have done so for the past 20 years. It is something that is in me, it is me."
pigam is offline  
post #11 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 08:42 PM
Senior Member
 
pigam's Avatar
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: belgium
Posts: 7,431
                     
Quote:
Originally Posted by eugreene2
This is why, as silly as he may act sometimes, I'm glad Richard Williams is the way he is. In as much as Venus & Serena's stardom has shielded them from some racism, I also believe the USTA knows that Richard Williams would cause a nation-wide ruckus if they tried some racist BS. This is another reason they are correct for never going back to IW. Because they are such stand-up girls, I'm sure we'll never even know some of the racist stuff that happens on tour, let alone with umpires.
agreed about IW,
The only thing is wish for is that venus and Seean were maybe a bit more outspoken on WHY exactly they don't go back there, so that people would realise!! Or is this too much of a "sensitive subject"? Just asking, i'm interested since I have no clue how this is perceived in the USA.

J u s t i n e x p l i c a b l e


Justine: feb. 5, 2007:

"I hung on to tennis. I have done so for the past 20 years. It is something that is in me, it is me."
pigam is offline  
post #12 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 10:00 PM
Senior Member
 
kabuki's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: In denial
Posts: 6,176
                     
Obviously we haven't seen all of the facts, but it clearly appears damning for the USTA. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out. Somehow I have the feeling we are going to see more minority umps this summer, esp. at televised matches. Kind of like, "Look, see, we ARE inclusive!!"
kabuki is offline  
post #13 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 10:08 PM
Team WTAworld
Senior Member
 
GracefulVenus's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Houston, Texas
Posts: 7,227
                     
oooooohhhh we.......the race card is played and people are in trouble......really alarming numbers though. But I have to say that there are more whites involved in the game than blacks. I'm Black and just got interested in tennis two years ago. Not really a popular sport in my neighborhood or most Black neighborhoods. Not defending, just putting it out there.

Venus Williams

GV - Back From The Dead.........
Venus better have her hair fixed for the AO I'm just tired of it.
GracefulVenus is offline  
post #14 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 10:52 PM
Senior Member
 
Black Mamba.'s Avatar
 
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 3,841
                     
I'll hold judgement until more info comes out. However, I will say that if true this is hardly suprising or shocking.

"The mamba can strike with 99 percent accuracy at maximum speed, in rapid succession."
Black Mamba. is offline  
post #15 of 82 (permalink) Old Jun 12th, 2006, 10:58 PM
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2002
Posts: 1,980
                     
Lleyton Hewitt is probably not a member of the USTA, as he is an Australian, so there would seem no way for the USTA to discipline him. And discipline him for what, suggesting that a black person might be prejudiced ? Do we discipline black people for suggesting whites might be prejudiced?

Its called freedom of speech and it has to apply equally to everyone, no matter what their race.
TonyP is offline  
Reply

Quick Reply
Message:
Options

Register Now



In order to be able to post messages on the TennisForum.com forums, you must first register.
Please enter your desired user name, your email address and other required details in the form below.

User Name:
Password
Please enter a password for your user account. Note that passwords are case-sensitive.

Password:


Confirm Password:
Email Address
Please enter a valid email address for yourself.

Email Address:
OR

Log-in









Human Verification

In order to verify that you are a human and not a spam bot, please enter the answer into the following box below based on the instructions contained in the graphic.



Thread Tools
Show Printable Version Show Printable Version
Email this Page Email this Page



Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On

 
For the best viewing experience please update your browser to Google Chrome