Wertheim Answers I-Girl - TennisForum.com
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post #1 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 08:59 PM Thread Starter
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Thumbs up Wertheim Answers I-Girl

Someone posed a similar thought to Wertheim. Here is the question and his response.

Why does the WTA Tour allow tournaments to be held in countries which discriminate against players? I'm talking about the tournaments in the United Arab Emirates, which Israelis are not allowed to enter. I understand that the WTA might not want to get into politics, but this isn't about politics, it's about making sure all WTA players receive a fair shot. If as a matter of policy a country excludes certain people and refuses to make an exception for sports, the WTA should not hold a tournament in that country. Even if we set aside the notion that sport should rise above conflict and bring people together -- which makes this discrimination even more unfortunate -- the main thing here is that the WTA is responsible for all its members being treated equally. If the UAE tourneys don't do that, then the WTA should move these events elsewhere.
—Noga, Jerusalem

I'm guessing that this was a hot topic in tennis chat rooms last week, because we received a number of questions raising this problematic issue. I made some calls to various agencies, including the Israeli consulate and the U.S. State Department, and generally speaking you're correct: The UAE doesn't have diplomatic relations with Israel, and thus Israeli citizens are not permitted to enter the country. Exceptions can be made -- and probably would be made in the case of professional athletes -- but your point is well taken.

Let's be clear: This isn't about whether you support or oppose Ariel Sharon's government or whether Country A should have the right to issue a blanket ban on citizens of Country B. The issue is whether the WTA and ATP tours should be in the business of sanctioning events in countries where some of their player-members are denied entrance. (You and most of the other e-mailers mentioned the WTA, but the men's event in Dubai kicks off today.) This is an obvious and, admittedly, imperfect analogy, but we'll make it anyway: If a country (or club) had a whites-only policy, would either tour ever consider holding an event there?

I posed this question to both tours. The WTA basically declined to comment. A spokesman explained that the tour doesn't discuss specific policies as they relate to tournaments. (This, of course, is more than a little disingenuous: Did the WTA not just issue a discursive press release on various new policies pertaining to the year-end championships?)

As for the men, here's an unofficial statement from Mark Young, ATP executive vice president/general counsel:

Prior to sanctioning the ATP tournament in Dubai, ATP chief operating officer Larry Scott traveled there to receive assurances that any eligible player, regardless of his nationality, would be allowed to participate in the event. The organizers provided Scott with the necessary assurances. The ATP, which represents a culturally diverse international population of tournaments and players, would not sanction an event anywhere in the world without a guarantee that any eligible player be allowed to play.
A few points:

It's reassuring that the ATP was concerned about this issue. But the notion that "any eligible player would be allowed to participate" isn't altogether satisfactory. You could argue that it's reminiscent of the all-white clubs that allowed black jazz bands to come and perform on weekends. If an Israeli player's coach or parent or significant other isn't allowed in the country, is he or she really going to feel welcome at the event?

The men, deservedly so, received all sorts of glowing publicity from the Amir Haddad/Sam Qureshi doubles team; Haddad, an Israeli, and Qureshi, a Pakistani, recently won the ATP's Arthur Ashe Humanitarian Award for promoting "tolerance through tennis." Is it really consistent for the ATP to be giving its imprimatur to events that, for all intents, forbid one of its members from playing? (Come to think of it, it would also be interesting to know whether Qureshi is able to enter the ATP events held in India.)

Quite apart from the Israeli-exclusion policy, it was in Dubai that a French businesswoman recently was allegedly gang-raped and then jailed without a trial for having had "illicit sexual relations" under Sharia law. Why would players -- including a certain fortysomething doubles specialist who's usually admirably outspoken about social injustice -- agree to compete in this country? Both the "his" and "hers" Dubai tournaments are notorious for hurling money around like it's going out of style. Stories abound of tour officials being plied with jewel-encrusted watches and players receiving gold bars and exotic ponies as "gifts" for entering. Let's just say that the abundance of money is not an insignificant factor in any decisions about the Dubai event.

One of tennis' great virtues is its international composition. No other individual sport brings together players from so many other countries. It's terrific that the appeal of tennis expands to Muslim countries, and it's particularly terrific that a women's event is being played openly in the UAE. If in some small way tennis can transcend politics and help break down boundaries and demystify people, cultures and countries, we are all better for it. But as a matter of principle, the ATP and WTA cannot in good conscience justify sanctioning an event in which any member is, de facto or de jure, prohibited from playing.

Please forgive me for posting this twice.

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post #2 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 09:09 PM
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post #3 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 09:11 PM
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post #4 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 09:25 PM
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Extremely respectable of Wertheim. I appreciated his insight to this and just wish somehow the players with clout would feel the same way.

I'm glad Venus pulled out of Dubai -- but I wish she would have made some statement about not wanting to play in an opressive environment

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post #5 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 09:59 PM
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Yes, I saw that too. Great job on getting some publicity on the issue!!

Big thumbs DOWN to the WTA for issuing essentially a "no comment" on the issue. At least it APPEARS that the ATP is looking to safeguard the interests of its players. SHame on the WTA for not taking a stand on this.

I have to say that this is one issue I really never knew about and I'm pleased to have learned about it so I can educate others..
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post #6 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 10:02 PM
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Noga, I love you!! (But you knew that.)

Seriously, well done buddy. Congratulations for taking this up and being heard. And it's a good response from Wertheim. He deserves a lot of credit for saying this. I hope it has some impact.

Hopefully he'll see our views when he's lurking around on the boards, which I'm sure he does. I hope this thread gets a lot of supportive responses.

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post #7 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 10:06 PM
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I'm glad Venus pulled out of Dubai -- but I wish she would have made some statement about not wanting to play in an opressive environment

You and me both.. I was disappointed when I read that she was commited for the 2nd year in a row. I'm also extremely disappointed with the WTA. Why in the world are the women allowed to play in countries where women have been historically and continually oppressed??? It's just sickening that rich oil sheiks could seat on their asses and gawk at western women while their women are kept covered ugh

Good going igirl, maybe we should all write to the WTA

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post #8 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 10:14 PM
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Great job, Noga!

(heh, heh, we should use WErtheim as our mouthpiece more often)

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post #9 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 10:28 PM
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Notice also that Jon made 2 specific references to racial discriminaton: that an event wouldn't be held in a whites only venue AND that a waiver just ain't it, as it's like the old black musicians play for all white audience thing. In other words, discrimination is discrimination, period, whoever happens 2B on the receiving end today. And notice that he mentioned getting other e-mails on this (but picked this one to print). Noga rulz!
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post #10 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 11:19 PM
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Does anyone know what U.S policy with regards to athlets representing Iraq? Thanks.

Btw, I am sure Noga (if she is really I-girl) would oppose Wertheims attempt to compare banning Israeli's from Arab countries with discriminations against blacks. According to I-girl's own word:

I have said many times that I think the attempts to make a comparison between the I-P conflict and the discrimination against Black people is lazy and inaccurate, and is only made because it provides a quick and easy way to find who you want to blame for the situation, without actually having to understand it. the apartheid is so much more one sided than our conflict. it's very clear who's in the wrong there. one side is doing all the evil, and the other side is nothing but a victim. that is hardly the case in our conflict, in which both sides are hurting each other, and both sides are in the wrong. as a black person, I expect you to be the first one to object to this comparison, because it takes away from the definitive evil of apartheid.

Last edited by eta psi; Feb 24th, 2003 at 11:27 PM.
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post #11 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 11:20 PM
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I am impressed with Jon Wertheim's serious and thoughtful response to this urgent issue, and I am really glad he was apparently barraged with questions about it. Not surprised to hear the WTA refused to answer; that is just what I would expect from this hopelessly inept organization.
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post #12 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 11:26 PM
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Originally posted by eta psi
Does anyone know what U.S policy with regards to athlets representing Iraq? Thanks.
No, BUT: we don't have diplomatic relations with Iran either, and our national soccer team went there to play an exhibition match about a year ago. I believe there's a reciprocal offer for the U.S. to host a rematch.
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post #13 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 11:29 PM
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rd, the difference is US doesn't enforce a sanction against Iranian goverment (as far as I know), but does so against Iraqi goverment. I am just interested on how far this sanction interferes in sports.
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post #14 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 24th, 2003, 11:47 PM
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eta, do we WANT a situation where INTERNATIONAL bodies like the WTA and ATP abide by one country's "cold war" with another (as the gulf states and Israel have never been close to going to war)? Now if sanctions are multilateral, as with 1980's South Africa, it's clear and targeted. If most of the world's population boycotted Israel, perhaps it would be comparable, even if the U.S. had vetoed the boycott in the UN. That's certainly not the case. (I seem to recall Smash playing in Shanghai, for example). And Cuban teams in various sports are welcome here despite those sanctions; their OWN government limits such team visits due to players defecting. A couple of our baseball teams have also played there, and I believe the er, "red carpet" is still rolled out for such visits.
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post #15 of 37 (permalink) Old Feb 25th, 2003, 12:13 AM
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