Wimbledon’s decision to ban all Russian and Belarusian from this year’s event caused a backlash on its own social media channels this week, with about 20 per cent in support – but 80 per cent of posts against.
The ATP were none too pleased either.
“Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings. Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our Board and Member councils,” they said in a statement.
“It is important to stress that players from Russia and Belarus will continue to be allowed to compete at ATP events under a neutral flag, a position that has until now been shared across professional tennis. In parallel, we will continue our joint humanitarian support for Ukraine under Tennis Plays for Peace.”
The WTA were equally damning with CEO Steve Simon saying: “I think you will see strong reactions from us, but their nature and how far we will go are yet to be determined.”
Is a boycott on the horizon?
Novak Djokovic also slammed the decision.
“I will always condemn war, I will never support war being myself a child of war,” Djokovic told reporters at the Serbia Open.
“I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans we have had many wars in recent history.
“However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy.
“When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good.”
And Andrey Rublev accused the All England Club of “complete discrimination”.
Rublev, who appealed for peace when he signed a camera lens with a ‘no war please’ in Dubai, added: ‘Banning Russian or Belarusian players… will not change anything.
‘To give all the prize money (which last year totalled £35million), would have a more positive effect to humanitarian help, to the families who are suffering, to the kids who are suffering, I think that would do something.
‘Tennis will, in that case, be the first and only sport who donates that amount of money and it will be Wimbledon so they will take all the glory.’
Donating all the price money to Ukrainian humanitarian assistance – now there’s a solid idea.
As for the social media posts (and they are all genuine from Wimbledon’s own Facebook page) …
“What about fair-play?”, asked Leena. “How are these athletes responsible for their country’s political decisions? This is beyond absurd and very discriminatory. I’m very disappointed with Wimbledon for this decision. So, is banning athletes from countries that support Russia next?”
Danny: “Wimbledon is supposed to be the epitome of fair play and this decision goes completely against this. You cannot hold individuals accountable for the actions of others unless it is proven that they are directly in support of their government’s actions. It’s quite frankly a disgraceful decision. You can already see the reaction to this from the majority of people. Wimbledon will have lost a lot of respect for this.”
Pavan: “In that case, Britain should be isolated and banned for lifetime, for the kind of atrocities, robberies and destruction they have done all over the world in the past. It is still evident in their London museum, which is nothing but collection of stolen artefacts.
I am not going to watch Wimbledon at all.
“So disappointing,” wrote John. “This does absolutely nothing to help and only frustrates and causes resentment. The athletes aren’t responsible for their country’s actions!
Anne: “I think this is a dreadful decision. They play as individuals at Wimbledon, not for their country. I personally wouldn’t want or expect to be judged on Boris Johnson’s politics, and I don’t see why these players should be judged on the politics of the leaders where they were born.”
Wrong decision,” wrote Hannah. “Punishing individuals because of the actions of their state. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova for example openly (and bravely) spoke out against the war. This is just virtue-signalling from Wimbledon.”
Giacomo: “Why? Is it their fault that there is a war? They just want to play tennis
and they are not harming or offending anybody while doing so. Please reconsider, and keep politics away from this noble sport.”
Antonia: “This statement makes me sad for our Russian & Belarusian players. Where was your decision to ban British & USA players when Blair & Bush started their illegal war?. Very wrong move on your part Wimbledon!”
Leanne: “This is a pretty ordinary decision. How can you justify banning these players who have nothing to do with the war? What are you expecting them to do, exactly? Hoping common sense prevails before the championship.”
Kathy: “This is wrong. The Russian and Belarusian players are not at fault here. Furthermore, with few exceptions, none of these players reside in Russia. They could be representing Monte Carlo since most live there.”
Greg: “So many war crime apologists. Sanctions against businesses and individuals are some of the most effective tools to achieve change. Russian citizens need to be made to suffer to to send a strong signal of condemnation and build internal opposition for their regime. This is no different than the pain on “innocent” Russians through economic sanctions… other than your need to be entertained.”
Ellen: “I don’t believe there is any other choice possible under these circumstances. It’s sad and understandably hard on those players. Blame the monster Putin for all of this. I side with this decision.”
Sharon had a different view: “Absolutely ridiculous!!! Should we all be checking with our places of work to recommend they fire individuals of Russian descent? I think not! Shame on you AELTC. These athletes are playing as individuals & not under the team flag of their sovereign nation. This discrimination goes against all things Wimbledon. A sad day for tennis and for sport.”
So did Sue: “I think it is so WRONG to not allow these players to compete. Do what other tournaments did. Do not display the flags of their countries. You are being prejudicial & judgmental. Lighten up!! This is a sport, not a political event! SHAME ON YOU!!”
Todor: Shameful – punishing athletes, who have excelled in the sport based on their own efforts for a dictatorship they most likely condemn to the same extent as the rest of us. I hope many big names boycott the tournament.”
Lindsay: “Absolute shocking decision. These are open tournaments for goodness sake and the best players should not be banned because of their nationalities. That is twice now this year the grand slams have become intertwined with the host Governmemt policies.Going forward no player should be attached to a nationality.”
Jayne: Wrong decision. These are innocent individuals who are against the war. They have devoted their life to tennis, gutted for them all.”
Ron: “What a shame!!!! These young people have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with the disgusting war that is happening in Ukraine!! Most of them don’t even live in Russia!! How sad that you are so narrow minded to blame these tennis players for some thing they have totally no control over and have stated they are absolutely against this heinous act of war.”
Kelly said: “very sad. These players have zero responsibility for what their government does. So why don’t they deny players from China and other countries that have massive human right violations going on? Tennis and politics shouldn’t mix, in my opinion.”
Louise: This is absurd. Sport is for the unification of people and once sport becomes politicised you’re on a very slippery slope. Horrendous decision.”
Krisztián: Welcome back to the stone age, where people are getting chased because of their nationality hope some of the big names are going to announce their withdrawal under these circumstances.”
Christene: “Wow. This is unacceptable. The players have no say in what their government does and most can’t speak out for fear of their lives or their families lives. How irresponsible of Wimbledon.”
John: “Very, very disappointed by this decision. Unfair on the players concerned and the spectators who pay good money to see the best players compete against each other. You have devalued the 2022 tournament. I am saddened and frankly, annoyed. If I hadn’t already got my ticket, I would be boycotting Wimbledon in protest – not that you would care about that! Sport should be above politics, otherwise where do you draw the line?”
Stefan: “A great example of how sport brings us together, crosses boundaries, promotes inclusion and sportsmanship…. not.”
Patrick: “That’s exactly why I believe countries should not have monopolies on grand slam events. Rotate them, and change their names. Clay Slam, Grass Slam, Hard Slam 1 & 2. Today tennis is so much affected by politics because politicians can bar players from certain countries for one reason or another. It’s against the spirit of sports itself… and in this world, we all know that the only thing that seems to generate consensus and unity across countries and people in the world is sports, not our political views or personal values.”
Cathy: “Politics should have absolutely no place in sport, I totally disagree with this decision.”
Jessica: Yes!!! I’m going to Wimbledon and I’m thrilled with this decision. They should have done this to US players during our illegal wars in Iraq. It’s a nonviolent protest against violence. Bravo.
Gene: “Think of the rest of the players. They know that the strongest players are eliminated without competition. The level of this grand slam is degraded.
Whoever wins the title, does he/she have the right to be called Wimbledon champion? Really?
Filip: “And I thought UK could sink no lower. An utterly disgraceful and shameful decision opening the door for xenophobia. The rest of the players should boycott Wimby IMO. But, since very few spoke up during the AO22 political torture and fascist deportation of Djokovic, I suspect no one will speak up in defence of the players! As if they are personally shooting civvies with AK47. A new sad day for tennis!”
Mary Anne: “Well done Wimbledon for supporting Ukraine. Hopefully this will open up the eyes of the Russians so they can understand the rest of the world is standing with Ukraine. Maybe these athletes can be spokesman so they can bring internal awareness to the horrible actions their country is committing.”
Jase: “What a shambles of a decision. World number 8 and number 2, who have both condemned the war. They’ve done nothing wrong in this and shouldn’t be punished. You punishing the USA and UK players for their countries involvements in wars? Nope. Didn’t think so!”
Paul: “Lessons never learned: prejudice towards a whole population. Example: Japanese internment camps for Japanese Americans during WWII.”
Jatinder: “Where were the sanctions for the players of NATO countries that invaded Iraq and Afghanistan and bombed Serbia to bits? Such hypocrisy.”
Benni: “Sorry that’s disgusting! What a wrong and absolutely offending decision! The athletes made partially strong statements against war! I will not watch any match in Wimbledon this year!
Matt: “Let’s be honest, banning them won’t make an ounce of difference to what Putin’s doing. Just let them play under a neutral flag. You’re shooting yourself in the foot as Wimbledon will be a far worse tournament without Medvedev/Rublev etc there.”
Nick: “Absolutely the right decision. This will genuinely hurt Putin, the people on here prioritising a handful of players need to get some perspective.”
Eloise: “Absolutely disgusting decision. Just fuelling more hatred by marking all Russians and Belarusians as responsible for the actions of a psychopath. Most of these players have publicly denounced the war. No bans for US when they went to war in Iraq. Utter hypocrisy and disgracing the UK as somewhere that fuels hatred instead of peace.
Bernardo: “Pathetic. Wimbledon banned any American player during the Iraq war? This is a bloody hypocrisy. Such a shame.”
Craig: “Makes me not want to attend Wimbledon this year. I am British, against the war in UKRAINE but this is not the correct route forward, in fact it’s hypocritical and sets a dangerous precedent. I have also seen players like Rublev make their own subtle/yet effective stand for peace. Then you ban them anyway. Do you know how important change from within is for positive change, isolating anti war Russian and Belarusian players seems counter productive and feeds the anti west media massage. This is totally not constructive.”
Mianoke: “Disgusting. Blaming athletes for political choices of their countries – why is America allowed to play after Afghanistan? Why is Israel allowed to play after Palestine ? Why are Germans allowed to play after the holocaust? Primitive decisions made to benefit the fringe wealthy. Disgusting.”
Meg says: “Wrong decision…. Athletes can’t be held accountable for this.”
Mrco: “I’m absolutely with Ukrainian people, but this decision is the worst possible…Russia is not democratic and if you say anything against the war you can be jailed. Rublev and Medvedev said that they are for peace…what can they do more? They have family in Russia. Is it for all the Russian workers in UK? Do they have to stop working in UK????? Rethink about your stupid decision!”
And finally, Stanley: A deeply shameful moment in international tennis that’s reminiscent of US McCarthyism.
SO which players will be forced to sit out Wimbledon?
On the men’s side, world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev No.8 Andrey Rublev, No. 24 Karen Khachanov and No. 30 Aslan Karatsev. Plus Belarusian No. 42 Ilya Ivashka.
On the women’s side, five of the top 40 are affected.
World No. 15 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Daria Kasatkina (No. 26) and Veronika Kudermetova (No. 29), all of Russia, and the decision also prevents Belarussian Aryna Sabalenka (No. 4) and former world No. 1 and current No. 18 Victoria Azarenka from competing.
World No 49 Marta Kostyuk called on the ATP and the WTA and the ITF to ask any Russian or Belarusian players to answer a series of questions about their support for Putin or Alexander Lukashenko’s regime in Belarus.
Depending on the answer, she wrote: “If applicable, we demand to exclude and ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from competing in any international event, as Wimbledon [has] already done. There comes a time when silence is betrayal, and that time is now.”
And the questions:
- Do you support Russia’s and Belarus invasion in Ukraine’s territory and as a result of that the war started by those countries?
- Do you support Russia’s and Belarus military activities in Ukraine?
- Do you support Putin’s and Lukashenko’s regime?”
AND finally ….
Were the LTA and Wimbledon officials pressured into banning players over the thought of a member of the British royal family having to present a winners’ trophy to a Russian?
Last year the Duchess of Cambridge presented the championship trophies to ladies’ singles winner Ash Barty and gentlemen’s singles winner Novak Djokovic
The Duchess, who is the royal patron of the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, is expected to perform the same duty at Wimbledon this year.
The London Telegraph reported on Friday tournament officials were motivated by the potential nightmare of putting a member on the royal family in a position where they would have been pressured into presenting a trophy to Daniil Medvedev, should he win.
A British government source told the newspaper there were fears the trophy presentation could have become a “sportwashing” victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin.