Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Anti-semitism in Tennis/Obama

Shaheer Peer, a top 50 tennis player, thought she would be participating in a WTA tournament in Dubai, UAE. Instead, UAE officials barred her from the country by refusing to grant her a visa at the last minute. The reason: Peer is Israeli. The excuse: the authorities were scared about security at Peer's matches. (Interesting that a dictatorship with no freedoms was afraid of protests in its country.) Whats clear is that the act of barring Peer from the country was an act of overt anti-semitism. Interestingly, four distinct groups of people could have forced UAE into allowing Peer to enter the country but did not.

1. The players: Not one player dropped out of the tournament to protest this act of anti-semitism. Not one. This is astonishing. Had this been an act of racism, there is no question that players would have dropped out of the tournament. And yet for anti-semitism, the players felt comfortable participating. Their participation in the tournament is a black mark against each of their careers.

2. WTA- The association which oversees the women's tour could have put a stop to this by telling Dubai that the tournament would be cancelled if Peer was not allowed into the country. WTA tour chief Larry Scott decided against this action since it wouldn't be fair to the other players. Shame on Mr. Scott and the WTA.

3. The sponsors- Barclays, which sponsors this tournament, and Sony Ericsson, which sponsors the WTA tour could have made a heroic stand by threatening to pull their sponsorships in responsone to Dubai's actions. Unfortunately, that did not happen. (The Wall Street Journal did pull its sponsorship of the tournament).

4. The media- American media has been amazingly muted regarding this outrage. There has been very little effort on the part of the media to ask the above groups how they can stand in the face of such discrimination.

One bright spot was the decision of the Tennis Channel to pull its coverage of the tournament. Tennis fans should consider how they should respond to this outrage, including avoiding tennis tournaments in the near future.

Wake me up when President Obama delivers the "change" that he promised. Its becoming clear that Obama 's actions in office won't come close to his campaign rhetoric. Its painful to watch him try to learn on the job as our economy spirals out of control.