WTA players should step up now
This bothers me enough to be staying awake. Well, that, and trying to blow-dry my socks dry after a day at the Tour of California.
But back in the room after a day on the race circuit, I turned up the news that a very smart, intense, entertaining tennis player named Shahar Peer of Israel has been denied a spot she earned in the draw of the quite lucrative $2-million women's tennis tournament in Dubai this week. Peer, an Israeli, was denied a visa request she had filed months earlier. She is, in other words, being denied a chance to do her job in an international business where the visa should have been granted.
The United Arab Emirates denied the visa on the day the draw would come out. The suspicion is that Peer is being punished for Israel's recent actions in the Gaza Strip area.
It would be so wonderful if for once a group of athletes stood together in principle. It's too much to ask the WTA Tour to cancel the event. Not offending any sponsors seems more important than supporting a player who has been wronged, but what could have been an important statement by players supporting players seems to have been wasted.
The Williams sisters are in the draw. They have taken strong personal stands by refusing to ever again play in the biggest tournament in their hometown area, Indian Wells, because of racist behavior directed toward the sisters several years ago. It was a strong stand taken by two women who have stuck to their principles. Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic are also in the draw. The two Serbians should understand how hurtful it is when politics mixes up with play. Jankovic and Ivanovic suffered while trying to play tennis as their country went to war with Croatia.
What would the WTA do if a tournament in India said no to Muslim players or a South African event preferred to say no to African American players?
Dubai would have no tournament this week if the athletes stood as a group and said no play without Peer. The tour should be canceling the event now.
It's an egregious misuse of politics against sports and one player has suffered. The suffering shouldn't be Peer's. It should be that of the tournament directors who don't have the guts to buck politics. The suffering should go to the tournament sponsors and to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. They owe it to all the players to stand up for one.
Anyone who wins prize money in this event should donate it to an Israeli cause. Tennis players seem to have self-awareness. Hopefully they'll gain awareness of others too.
-- Diane Pucin
Photo: Shahar Peer. Credit: Sergei Supinsky / AFP/Getty Images