Is banning Russian tennis players from Wimbledon the right decision?

It’s controversial. Some critics suggest that the human rights of Russian athletes are being violated because they are not responsible for military activities in Ukraine

Daniil Medvedev removed the Russian flag from his social media profiles and also expressed his wish for world peace

By Daryl Adair, Associate Professor of Sports Management, University of Technology Sydney

Wimbledon, tennis’ most iconic grand slam, reflects on its stance on the participation of Russian nationals.

UK Sports Secretary Nigel Huddleston recently suggested that for any Russians to play at Wimbledon, assurances might be needed about their stance on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine: “Absolutely no one flying the flag of Russian should only be allowed or allowed. We need potential assurance that they are not partisans of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin and we are looking at what requirements we might need to try to get assurances along those lines.

The All England Lawn and Tennis Club is in discussions with the Minister over the nature of any insurance and whether it would be applied at Wimbledon.


Call of referees

It now seems likely that Russian players, including the second male player, Daniil Medvedev, and top women like Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova will have to shed symbols and language linking them to the Russian state, and commit to playing at Wimbledon. as neutrals.

See also: Full coverage of the war in Ukraine

Medvedev has already taken a step in this direction by removing the Russian flag from his social media profiles. He also expressed a wish for world peace.

However, the generic affirmation of hoping for peace is not the same as taking a stand on a war in which one’s country is the antagonist. Medvedev himself adopts a neutral position on a war that the British government opposes.
Make no mistake: the Wimbledon tournament hosted by a NATO country is more than an exhibition of tennis. It is also a demonstration of what Britain considers appropriate, which is unlikely to be diplomacy and accommodation.

Huddleston only seems comfortable with Russian athletes who oppose or don’t support war, and so are willing to distance themselves from Putin.

Inside or outside?

Global angst over Putin has been so deep that the sport itself has been forced out behind its usual veil of political neutrality.

Thus, sports organizations around the world have taken a position on the participation of Russian and Belarusian teams and athletes.

One response has been exclusion, with the hope that the isolation of Russian teams from world sport is a necessary affront to the biggest military invasion of Europe since World War II. This is the position taken by swimming, athletics and football.

However, some sporting bodies, such as tennis and biathlon, allow Russians and Belarusians to compete provided they do so as neutrals. Tennis bodies, however, have suspended Russian and Belarusian players from team competitions.

Even the stilted International Olympic Committee, which has long refused to take a stand on geopolitical issues, has implored sports bodies and event organizers not to invite or allow Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials to participate in competitions. international.

Moreover, during the recent Paralympic Games in Beijing, several countries refused to participate against Russian teams, which caused the organizers to exclude Russian athletes.

Spin or stuff?

The All England Lawn and Tennis Club has the ability to decide entry rules for Wimbledon. He can align himself diplomatically with the ATP and WTA (the organizing bodies of the men’s and women’s tours), or ban the Russians outright.

All of this is controversial. Some critics have suggested that the human rights of Russian athletes are being violated because they are not responsible for military activities in Ukraine.

However, some Russian sports stars, willingly or not, have made their position known. Several have made public appearances sporting the letter Z, which has become a symbol of support for Russia’s attack on Ukraine.

Perhaps the most adamant pro-Putin advocate is Russian chess champion Sergey Karjakin, who took to Twitter to praise his country’s special military operation.

By contrast, some Russian sports stars have expressed their disapproval of the war, a perilous position given that this type of dissent is now considered a crime with some 15,000 Russians already arrested.

Strings tied

Countries opposed to Russia’s ongoing demolition of Ukraine have at this stage relied on economic sanctions as their primary deterrent. Unfortunately, these measures hurt and harm ordinary Russians.

Some critics argue that Western sanctions are hypocritical given US and allied military interventions in places like Iraq or Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

From this point of view, global sanctions should have been implemented against the United States or Israel, with implications for sport. Discussions about Ukraine have therefore not only focused on Russian imperialism and Putin’s fascism, but also on the turpitude of the rules-based order led by Washington.

Whether the All England Club bans Russian players or accepts them as neutrals will have been decided in consultation with Britain’s sports minister, at a time when Britain is supplying arms to Ukraine.

None of this is edifying.

Russian tennis players, if allowed to play, will face intense scrutiny both on and off the court. Would a victory for Medvedev be a victory for Putin? Would Medvedev’s absence help the anti-war effort?

In the midst of it all are athletes who, like ordinary Russians, may perhaps become unfairly targeted for punishment.

But war is the quintessence of injustice.

(This article first appeared in The conversation)

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