discrimination against Jews in pro tennis

9 04 2007

The news media usually takes a big stand when there’s racism in the professional arena (just ask Mel Gibson or Michael Richards or Tim Hardaway), but there’s a story that isn’t getting much press, so I’d like to mention it here.  Shahar Peer is an Israeli / Jewish tennis player in the professional women’s tour (WTA).  There’s a mandatory tournament in the Middle East (Dubai and Doha), where at first the country didn’t want to allow her to even participate.  Now they’ve relented a little, in that she can play, but she is not allowed to bring any other Israelis or Jews with her — even coaches and family.

This also looks bad on the WTA.  As Jon Wertheim says,

It’s hard to imagine too many other sports leagues sanctioning a mandatory event in a country that bans some of the workforce from entering on the basis of race, nationality or religion.

The WTA should not put a sanctioned tournament in a country that openly discriminates against certain nationalities or religions.  There’s plenty of other places that can host a big tennis tournament.  But, as many have noted, Dubai pays a lot of money to the players, and money can influence some people to overlook things.

To illustrate how big a deal this would be if the tables were turned, imagine a country hosting a worldwide event say they won’t allow Muslims to attend.  How big would the worldwide outcry be?  Perhaps this isn’t a huge deal in the media because this is tennis, or maybe it’s because she’s a Jew (and there is quite a bit of anti-semitism in the world).  I suspect the biggest reason (in combination with the other factors) is because much of the media is scared to confront Muslims because of the potential backlash.  But if we won’t speak up, what message are we sending?

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