Tennis stars show Obama administration how to handle bigotry

Ethel C. Fenig
Winning and losing in any sports activity is relatively clear cut--whichever individual or team compiles the most points or is the fastest, wins.  Oh sure, there is room for doubt--disputing a referee's or umpire's call, disagreeing with a judge's opinion at a skating event--but usually the final results leave no doubt as to winners or losers.  Good sports(wo)manship means playing fair (steroid issue aside) and let the best person win. 
 
Thus, while the UN is planning preliminary work for an anti bigotry conference Durban ll, that will be full of bigotry, racism and hate especially directed towards Israel and the US which the US, sadly is abetting, blindly justifying their participation by claiming they'll squash any prejudice, the sports world is having none of it.
 
When the country of Dubai denied Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer a visa, thus violating the terms of its agreement in hosting the World Tennis Association (WTA) tournament, the WTA struck back hard.  
 

Stung by the intensity of the international disgust at the treatment of Shahar Peer, the world No 45 from Israel, by the Dubai tennis authorities, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour levied an unprecedented series of fines, penalties and warnings last night against an event that will think twice before it raises its heavy hand again.

When Peer was denied a visa to compete in this week’s Barclays Championships, it set off a chain reaction of decisions, shifts and uncompromising gestures that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Government could not have imagined. At an emergency meeting of the tour’s board, it was decided that Peer will receive $44,245 (about £30,000), an average of the prize-money she received for singles and doubles at events last year; the tournament was fined a record $300,000 for a breach of tour rules and the event will have to post a $2 million financial performance guarantee by July 1 for a number of conditions it must meet to stage the event in 2010, including the guarantee of a wild card for Peer if her ranking is not high enough for a place in the main draw.

The response from the women’s game marks a watershed. Larry Scott, the tour’s chief executive officer, said: “These actions send a clear message that we will not tolerate discrimination and we will not allow this situation to happen again.”

Individual players agreed with the WTA decision, bravely protesting with actions and words.  Defending champion Andy Roddick took the most courageous action , saying
 
 
he won't attend because he doesn't agree with the United Arab Emirates' decision to deny Israeli Shahar Peer a visa to play in the women's tournament this week.
 
America's Venus Williams, who won her 40th singles title also bravely spoke out.
 
During the trophy presentation, Williams spoke about Shahar Peer, the Israeli player who was denied entry into the United Arab Emirates for the tournament because of what organizers called security concerns.

“I felt like I had to talk about her,” Williams said. “I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her. My dad grew up in an area where if you spoke too much, it was your life. So I felt I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone will listen.” (snip)

“I am not here to rock any boat or upset people, I am just here to do things that are right,” Williams said. “And I think right things are already happening next week and right things will happen next year.”

Israeli player Andy Ram was granted a visa Thursday for the upcoming men’s tournament in Dubai. On Saturday, organizers said Ram would have the security needed to play.

“Obviously, Andy Ram got his visa, so I’ll be happy to come and defend next year,” Williams said. “If everyone is not given the equal opportunity to play, I’d rethink. But I love this tournament. They really care about the players.”

 
But Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, has multiple cultural problems.
 
The Peer row came as Dubai also banned a book by British author Geradline Bedell because it contained a gay character.

Geraldine Bedell's book The Gulf Between Us was greeted with enthusiasm by  first International Festival of Literature in Dubai - but banned once a minor character's homosexuality was discovered.

leading Bedell to ask

'It calls into question the whole notion of whether the Emirates and other Gulf states really want to be part of the contemporary cultural world,' Ms Bedell told the Times. 'You can't ban books and expect your literary festival to be taken seriously.'

And you can't hold an anti bigotry conference, drenched in bigotry.  Let the sports people conduct a real anti bigotry conference. 




Winning and losing in any sports activity is relatively clear cut--whichever individual or team compiles the most points or is the fastest, wins.  Oh sure, there is room for doubt--disputing a referee's or umpire's call, disagreeing with a judge's opinion at a skating event--but usually the final results leave no doubt as to winners or losers.  Good sports(wo)manship means playing fair (steroid issue aside) and let the best person win. 
 
Thus, while the UN is planning preliminary work for an anti bigotry conference Durban ll, that will be full of bigotry, racism and hate especially directed towards Israel and the US which the US, sadly is abetting, blindly justifying their participation by claiming they'll squash any prejudice, the sports world is having none of it.
 
When the country of Dubai denied Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer a visa, thus violating the terms of its agreement in hosting the World Tennis Association (WTA) tournament, the WTA struck back hard.  
 

Stung by the intensity of the international disgust at the treatment of Shahar Peer, the world No 45 from Israel, by the Dubai tennis authorities, the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour levied an unprecedented series of fines, penalties and warnings last night against an event that will think twice before it raises its heavy hand again.

When Peer was denied a visa to compete in this week’s Barclays Championships, it set off a chain reaction of decisions, shifts and uncompromising gestures that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Government could not have imagined. At an emergency meeting of the tour’s board, it was decided that Peer will receive $44,245 (about £30,000), an average of the prize-money she received for singles and doubles at events last year; the tournament was fined a record $300,000 for a breach of tour rules and the event will have to post a $2 million financial performance guarantee by July 1 for a number of conditions it must meet to stage the event in 2010, including the guarantee of a wild card for Peer if her ranking is not high enough for a place in the main draw.

The response from the women’s game marks a watershed. Larry Scott, the tour’s chief executive officer, said: “These actions send a clear message that we will not tolerate discrimination and we will not allow this situation to happen again.”

Individual players agreed with the WTA decision, bravely protesting with actions and words.  Defending champion Andy Roddick took the most courageous action , saying
 
 
he won't attend because he doesn't agree with the United Arab Emirates' decision to deny Israeli Shahar Peer a visa to play in the women's tournament this week.
 
America's Venus Williams, who won her 40th singles title also bravely spoke out.
 
During the trophy presentation, Williams spoke about Shahar Peer, the Israeli player who was denied entry into the United Arab Emirates for the tournament because of what organizers called security concerns.

“I felt like I had to talk about her,” Williams said. “I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her. My dad grew up in an area where if you spoke too much, it was your life. So I felt I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone will listen.” (snip)

“I am not here to rock any boat or upset people, I am just here to do things that are right,” Williams said. “And I think right things are already happening next week and right things will happen next year.”

Israeli player Andy Ram was granted a visa Thursday for the upcoming men’s tournament in Dubai. On Saturday, organizers said Ram would have the security needed to play.

“Obviously, Andy Ram got his visa, so I’ll be happy to come and defend next year,” Williams said. “If everyone is not given the equal opportunity to play, I’d rethink. But I love this tournament. They really care about the players.”

 
But Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, has multiple cultural problems.
 
The Peer row came as Dubai also banned a book by British author Geradline Bedell because it contained a gay character.

Geraldine Bedell's book The Gulf Between Us was greeted with enthusiasm by  first International Festival of Literature in Dubai - but banned once a minor character's homosexuality was discovered.

leading Bedell to ask

'It calls into question the whole notion of whether the Emirates and other Gulf states really want to be part of the contemporary cultural world,' Ms Bedell told the Times. 'You can't ban books and expect your literary festival to be taken seriously.'

And you can't hold an anti bigotry conference, drenched in bigotry.  Let the sports people conduct a real anti bigotry conference.