As part of a new documentary series, ESPN will explore the controversy surrounding the 2018 U.S. Open Tennis final where Serena Williams lost to Naomi Osaka. The match was marred by penalties and during a press conference Williams accused umpire Carlos Ramos of sexism.  

NOW President Toni Van Pelt is interviewed in the premiere episode to discuss the role that sexism played in this volatile event and in sports more generally.  

Ramos handed Williams three violations during the match, including a game penalty for verbal abuse after she called him a “thief” for alleging that she was cheating.  

“But I’ve seen other men call other umpires several things. I’m here fighting for women’s rights and for women’s equality…” Williams said at the time. “For me to say ‘thief’ and for him to take a game, it made me feel like it was a sexist remark. He’s never taken a game from a man because they said ‘thief.'” 

The controversy continues nearly a year later and with the 2019 U.S. Open set to begin this month, ESPN is taking a closer look at the ongoing debate in Backstory, a new ESPN documentary series featuring the investigative reporting of three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Don Van Natta, Jr.  

Backstory’s debut episode “Serena vs. The Umpire” launches on Sunday, Aug. 18, at 1 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT on ABC, and will be re-aired across ESPN networks. A preview is available here.  

Please tune in and share the series on social media with the suggested post: 


Tune in for @ESPN’s Backstory with @DVNJr on @ABCNetwork Sunday, Aug. 18 at 1 p.m. eastern to see @tonivp of @NationalNOW discuss the role of sexism in sports and Serena Williams’ 2018 US Open match.  


Tune in for @ESPN’s Backstory on @ABCNetwork Sunday, Aug. 18 at 1 p.m. eastern to see NOW President Toni Van Pelt discuss the role of sexism in sports and Serena Williams’ 2018 US Open match.