Tuesday, February 17, 2009

What will the WTA do?

I like to talk about activism and political stances taken (or not taken) by athletes. But I don't talk too much about organizations or governing bodies. Once upon a time governing bodies in a variety of sports refused entry to South African athletes because of apartheid.
But there hasn't been such a concerted effort to make a statement about a country's politics since. Perhaps that is because global politics are a tad more complex now. Or maybe it's because no one has the courage to do so anymore. There was, of course, a lot of attention paid last summer to China's complicity in Darfur but, in the end, no country, no athlete refused to go.
There was some talk last summer in England about keeping Zimbabwe's teams and athletes out of various competitions. But that never materialized either.
So it's not all that surprising that the WTA has kind of just brushed to the side the issue of Shaheer Peer's denial into the United Arab Emirates to play a tournament. Peer was supposed to play in Dubai this week at the Barclay's Dubai Championships, but the UAE would not grant Peer, who is Israeli, a visa. This, of course, could be seen as a sanction against Israel for its recent actions in Gaza. But it was not an announced policy decision by a governing body; not a formal sanction. It appears to be a country taking action against one athlete.
The WTA has a policy of not holding tournaments in countries which would deny a player who has legitimately qualified for a tournament entry. And yet here we are in Dubai--the tournament goes on--seemingly without any protest by players or tour administrators. The WTA has said that it's going to review the situation.
Part of that review will likely be of finances. The tournaments in Dubai, despite their lack of crowd appeal, are lucrative deals for the WTA and the players. We shall see how the issues of politic, economics, and ethics play out here.