Thursday 19 February 2009

Racism in sport

It has become a prominent and just theme in many sports that racism has no place on the sports field.
Action is taken against racist chants at football games. The Olympic ethic that salutes performance and excellence is one that should permeate all aspects of sport.

It is disturbing, therefore, when racism rears its ugly head in a high profile sport - and is allowed to win.

I refer to the decision of the Dubai WTA tennis tournament to ban Shahar Peer. Peer is ranked among the world's leading women players. She is finding new form after a good display in the Pataya tournament in Thailand.
She was expected to go to Dubai and continue her rise up the rankings. The ban will affect not only her earnings but, more importantly, her world rankings, a vital element in a professional player's career.

The organisers made the lame excuse that they prevented the Israeli from participating for her own security.
It is clear that the ban of Peer was a political move, and not one of security fears.

The Tennis Channel rightly decided not to televise the tournament. Disturbing, however, is the reaction of the governing body of tennis.
When the women's tour ended last year in Doha, Larry Scott, the WTA CEO, stated,"We see women's professional tennis as a catalyst in producing social change."
Where is the change? And where is Larry Scott today in defence of one of his leading players?
Well he did say that he was 'deeply disappointed' with the Peer ban. Is that it, Larry? Is that the best you can do?

More significant has been the reaction of other players.

"It's not acceptable," said Amelie Mauresmo.
Ana Ivanovic felt bad for Shahar Peer.
"All the players support Shahar. The players have to be unified", said Venus Williams.

All empty words. All these fine players said to Shahar Peer, "Hard luck, Shahar. We're with you. See you after Dubai!"

That is not right. That is not true sport. That is not players unity.

What if the ban had been against Venus Williams because she is black? The world would have been in uproar.

I can't imagine that the other players would have said, "Bad luck, Venus. We are all with you but, hey, the money's good. We'll give you a hug after Dubai.."

If professional players despise racial prifling in sport they should have stood united and volutarily banned racism in sport and agreed not to attend Dubai unless the Israeli player was reinstated.

That would have resounded around the world.

Instead Israeli sportsmen and women see a reflection of the Munich Olympics.
After the massacre of the Israeli Olympians the other sports people murmured a prayer and the Games continued.

Again, in Dubai, in world tennis, racism matters - unless it's directed against Israeli or Jewish athletes.

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