Wimbledon has shown its support for Ukraine by announcing that Russian and Belarusian players will be banned from the tournament, but those players are now consulting law firms for a ruling as they accuse Wimbledon of discrimination.
As the war in Ukraine continues, countries around the world are wondering how they can support Ukraine, while simultaneously condemning Russia’s actions. For a number of companies, such acts of aggression and a blatant respect for humanity have caused them to completely sever their ties with Russia, while governments have also sought to impose sanctions. But in the world of sport, which wants to be a symbol of unity, competitions and sporting codes also seek to make their support known. In the tennis world, this led to Wimbledon announcing that it would ban Russian players from the tournament widely regarded as the most prestigious event on the international calendar.
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC) issued a statement announcing that Russian and Belarusian players would not be allowed to participate in the tournament due to “the circumstances of such unwarranted and unprecedented military aggression” by Russia in Ukraine.
“Given the profile of the Championships in the UK and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit the global influence of Russia by the most powerful means possible,” the statement continued.
“Under the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players in the championships. It is therefore with deep regret that we have l intention to refuse registrations of Russian and Belarusian players for the 2022 Championships.”
Already, Russian tennis stars have been quick to react to the news, with world number 8 Andrey Rublev calling it “total discrimination”. Rublev signed a camera lens with the message ‘no war please’ at the Dubai Tennis Championship, but said ‘the reasons they gave us didn’t make sense, they weren’t not logical” regarding the Wimbledon ban. He instead urged Wimbledon to consider giving Russian and Belarusian players a statement to sign “to donate all the prize money to humanitarian aid – to the families who are suffering” in return for permission to play, and suggested that most gamers would agree. “I just want to show that we are good people,” he added.
Wimbledon could now face legal action from the Belarusian Tennis Federation, which said it was consulting international law firms to ‘protect’ its stars, including the two-time Grand Slam champion Victoria Azarenka and world number 4, Aryna Sabalenka. “Such destructive actions in no way contribute to conflict resolution, but only incite hatred and intolerance on a national basis,” he said in a statement.
“Throughout the history of tennis, armed conflicts have taken place around the world – in Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Yugoslavia and other countries – but never before have tournament organizers n have suspended athletes from the United States, Great Britain and other countries.The illegal decisions of international tennis organizations concerning our athletes are undermining the reputation of these organizations.
Other players have also criticized the decision, including Novak Djokovic who admits that while he can relate to the emotional trauma of the war given his Serbian history, it has only further divided. “It’s crazy. When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good. Meanwhile, former Ukrainian player Alex Dolgopolov said he will raise awareness among Russians about the actions of its leaders.
“Wimbledon is not going to stop the war, it’s just another sign that the world condemns Putin,” he told the Independent“The more these signals, if it’s tennis or if it’s Fifa that stops them from playing football, it shows people that Russia is doing something wrong.