Organizers of a women’s tennis tournament said Tuesday that security fears were behind the decision to bar an Israeli player
The snub brought swift denunciations from the Women’s Tennis Association and warnings that it could consider scratching the Barclays Dubai tournament from its calendar.
Tuesday’s statement by the Barclays Dubai organizers — citing fan anger at Israel’s recent incursions into the Gaza Strip — was the first detailed explanation of the visa denial for Peer, who qualified as the 48th-ranked player in the world. Monday’s WTA rankings listed her 45th.
A statement from the tournament organizer, Dubai Duty Free, said Peer’s “presence would have antagonized our fans” because of the attacks in Gaza, which left about 1,300 Palestinians dead, at least half of them civilians, according to Gaza health officials.
There’s been unrest between Arabs and Israelis in the Middle East for 60 years. As I see it Dubai is going to have to make a choice. Placate the rabble, and they are never going to be satisfied, or give Peer a visa.
Fallout from the visa denial has already taking place.
The Tennis Channel announced it would not televise the tournament this week in protest of the United Arab Emirates’ last-minute visa denial for Israeli player Shahar Peer.
“This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong,” Tennis Channel chairman and CEO Ken Solomon told The New York Times. “Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color or religion. They are simply about talent. This is a classic case, not about what country did what to another country. If the state of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision.”
I applaud the Tennis channel’s decision. Sports are about merit not politics. The Dubai organizers are going to have to make a choice.
Another decision looms just over the horizon for Dubai officials.
But the United Arab Emirates, which is trying to become a showcase for world-class sports, faces increasing pressure with the men’s field, as Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram hopes to be in the draw on Sunday.
Ram’s lawyer, Amit Naor, told The Associated Press that the player is currently in Marseilles, France, and awaiting word if he will be allowed into Dubai. Ram is ranked No. 7 in the world in doubles.
“Andy wants to play, he’s not interested in all the other stuff,” Naor said. “He’s not looking for trouble, he’s looking to play … we thought politics was already out of sports.”
Ben Nichols, a marketing official for the men’s and women’s tennis tournaments in Dubai, said organizers were not aware of Ram’s visa status.
I make a bet they do now. If Ram is denied entry also, the WTA should cancel all further events in the country. Qatar allowed Peer to play in a tournament there, The UAE should follow course.
The choice that the Dubai organizers face could be compared to the one Albanian chess team faced at the 1972 Chess Olympiad. They were supposed to play Israel and didn’t show up for the games and were therefore forfeited. Albania protested, claiming their car broke down on the way to the match. Instead of getting a full 4 pts, Israel was awarded three. Three rounds later Albania’s true colors were discovered when they announced their withdrawal from the Olympiad rather than face the team from Greece.
I don’t know how anyone could have been surprised at Albania’s conduct in 1972. At the 1970 match they refused to play a team from South Africa. Like Albania, Dubai tournament organizers and officials are going to another stand with Andy Ram. If the WTC is about tennis not politics, they should make it clear there will be no more tournaments in the country if Ram is denied a visa also.
In all fairness there have been some
idiots protesters at another tennis event Peer played in. The AP article on Sunday made note of that happening in New Zealand recently. Back in 1969, misguided morons people protested Gary Player when he tried to play in the PGA Championship. That in spite of Player’s strong anti-apartheid views. Player invited Lee Elder to come play an exhibition match in South Africa. There are always going to be assholes persons who can’t separate sports and politics.
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