The Russian invasion of Ukraine is into its 9th week and professional sporting leagues and events around the world have been banning athletes from Russia and Belarus since early March.
Teams and events seemed to be affected the most, Russian soccer teams were thrown out of Europe leagues and the National Teams’ qualifiers for the World Cup were cancelled. F1 tore up the contract it had with Russia to hold this years’ race and any further races.
The International Paralympic Committee at first were allowing 80 Russian/Belarus athletes to compete at the Beijing Winter Games but then other countries threatened a mass pullout should they be allowed to compete, even as ‘neutral’ athletes. So, eventually the IPC caved and the Russians were banned.
Tennis players as individuals were allowed to keep competing on the WTA and ATP Tours but weren’t allowed to play in any team events. Then a few days ago rumors started appearing on Twitter that Wimbledon would announce it’s banning Russian/Belarus players from this years’ event.
A day later Wimbledon released a statement, which said in part, “It would be unacceptable for the Russian Regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian/Belarusian players with the Championships, it is therefore our intention with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022”.
Of course, this is all Government speak, straight from the Prime Ministers office. It’s a new cold war in sports and as usual the athletes are the ones getting screwed. Politics and Sport is the toxic cocktail only a sadist likes to mix.
Ah yes, let’s penalize the athletes for which they have no control over what their government does. It’s clear the West and in this case the British Government doesn’t want Putin to turn Russian athletic success into Propaganda, such as having a Russian winner of the tournament standing next to a member of the Royal family whilst holding up the trophy.
The West see it as adding pressure on the Russian Government to end this war, either through economic sanctions, military support for Ukraine by sending weapons or goliaths like Apple, Ikea and Nike no longer selling their products in Russia which includes McDonalds shutting 800 of their food troughs.
It’s an overall strategy, the more pressure that’s applied the more chance at the negotiating table. It’s a pity Medvedev, Azarenka, Sabalenka or the other 30 players banned don’t have a negotiating table, and therein lies the rub, professional tennis players don’t have a ‘union’, essentially no collective power.
Why do you think the NHL (Ice hockey) aren’t banning the 40 Russians from their league, the players union has power, especially with the ‘Playoffs’ only days away.
Yet, I wonder if Wimbledon would have dropped this hammer if a bigger draw card such as Sharapova were still playing at the height of her powers with all that corporate money behind her.
All this said, does anyone really think Putin at this point cares about sports propaganda and how much damage will be done to his war machine in banning Russian athletes around the world in ending this war.
Nobody is for or against Putin and this war if a Russian athlete wins a tennis tournament.
Djokovic and other players get thrown out of Australia before their Grand Slam starts, players aren’t allowed to compete at Wimbledon because of their nationality through their Governments actions. This is all setting a dangerous precedent.
What’s next? Will players be indirectly held responsible for other policies/actions of their Governments? How about Religious beliefs? Lifestyles?
Don’t think it can’t happen. This game is only going to get more dangerous for athletes.