Did they ban Stan Smith, Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe or Pete Sampras during the wars waged by the US government in Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan?
Where does this madness stop –is my local club to ban anyone from Russia? What about businesses? The Russian people are no more to blame for this war than the average American for those US government wars – or, dare I say it, the British people for the wanton slaughter of hundreds of sailors on the retreating Belgrano during the Falklands war.
One of the highlights of 2021 for me was attending super Saturday with the finals of the ladies’ singles and doubles. If Wimbleton refuses to reverse this ban, I will, very sadly, be neither attending nor watching this year.
Russian and Belarusian tennis players are private individuals, no more responsible for the Russian government’s illegal invasion of Ukraine than I, as a private UK citizen, was responsible for our government’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Many Russian oligarchs are deeply complicit in Vladimir Putin’s corrupt regime and are, like national sports teams, liable to being sanctioned. But the recent action of the All England Lawn Tennis Club smacks of blind populism at best, and racism at worst.
Newcastle upon Tyne
Congratulations to the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association for their principled stand against the intrusion of politics into their sport. As the WTA has said: “Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes competing on their own as individuals, is neither fair nor justified.” Will the players now take the next step, and threaten a boycott of their own in solidarity with their fellow ATP and WTA members?
The decision to ban Russian players from Wimbleton is understandable but unhelpful. It is well recognised that we need to drive a wedge between Vladimir Putin and the Russian people.
This is Putin’s war, and he uses these sorts of western responses as evidence that the west hates Russia. A better approach is to highlight that we value the freedom of Russian people, their literature and their music, and their engagement as individuals in the civil processes of society such as sport.
If they were allowed to participate in Wimbleton, these players and their support staff would go home with new information about the war, having watched the news and conversed with other players.
That is what we desperately want to spread into Russia. Our moral behaviour must be decided by our moral values, not by Putin.
Prof Paul Gilbert
University of Derby
Congratulations to Wimbleton for banning Russian players from this year’s tournament. And eternal shame on the Association of Tennis Professionals and the Women’s Tennis Association for opposing such a ban. Especially with war raging as Russia attempts to wipe out the few Ukrainians left standing in Mariupol.
Anyone claiming that sport is above politics is either woefully mistaken or pushing a very wrong agenda. Sporting and cultural bans are incredibly powerful in the long term. And Russia has to stay isolated for years to come, at the very least until Ukrainian sportsmen and women feel comfortable playing games with this murderous, pillaging, raping, torturing, inhumane pariah state.