The 48th ranked women's tennis player, Shahar Peer was barred from playing at the Dubai Tennis Championship. Peer is both Israeli and Jewish. United Arab Emerates authorities denied her a visa to play in the tournament, one day prior to the tournament, citing security reasons based on fan anger about Israel's recent military offensive.
The media handled this very well. The Wall Street Journal Europe pulled it's sponsorship of the tennis tournament after the announcement of Peer's via denial was made. The Tennis Channel refused to broadcast the tennis tournament.
The two major tennis associations, the WTA and USTA have said they will discuss the option of completely pulling out of the UAE for good in the wake of what Larry Scott, chief executive of the WTA Tour is calling "a breach of the ethos that players should be treated equally." Mr. Scott is also considering taking away Dubai's spot in the WTA Tour next year.
The president of the ITF (International Tennis Federation), Francesco Ricci Bitti also made a statement reminding the UAE that the ITF does not permit discrimination. He continues to state, "Shahar Peer earned her place. The ITF believes that sport should not be used as a political tool but rather as a unifying element between athletes and nations."
Michael Stein, president of the Israeli Tennis Association wants the USTA and WTA to ensure that Peer's ranking would not in any way be harmed due to her exclusion from this tournament. He also said that the sanction has to be severe so that no athlete will ever be discriminated against again.
Venus Williams came out and stated, "all the players support Shahar."
Peer's brother and manager said, "I can assume that it is because she is Israeli, and not because she has brown eyes."
Peer herself released a statement as well stating, "I am very disappointed that I have been prevented from playing in Dubai," she said. "I think a red line has been crossed here that could harm the purity of sport. I have always believed that politics and sports should not be mixed. I am confident the Tour will take appropriate actions to ensure that this injustice is not allowed to occur in the future."
And here is my usual question to my fellow Gatherers:
•1) What should the WTA, ITF and USTA do regarding this issue?
•2) Should the other players who entered the tournament have pulled out as well?
•3) Barclay's is a major sponsor of the tournament, but did not pull their sponsorship. What does this say about Barclay's?
•4) Did the media outlets (WSJ and Tennis Channel) do the right thing by pulling sponsorship and refusing to broadcast?
So now my opinion: I am not surprised that the UAE denied Shahar Peer her visa to play in this tournament. It is no secret across the world that the UAE is not currently on diplomatic terms with Israel. However, to discriminate against a tennis player and bring politics into the world of athletics is appalling. Tennis is one of the few sports that is inclusive of anyone from any country, and that is not based in any one country.
I am proud that the WSJ Europe pulled its sponsorship and I think the Tennis Channel did the right thing by not broadcasting the tournament. I think the WTA, USTA and ITF must strongly consider pulling out of the UAE and certainly should at least suspend this tournament from the tour, at least for next year, or until the UAE grants access to Israeli and Jewish athletes.
As for Barclay's, they should have absolutely pulled sponsorship of the tournament. I also believe that although Venus Williams came out and said that all players support Peer, the players should have also pulled out. Most of them don't need the money.