Monday, February 16, 2009

Tennis Channel reverses plan to broadcast Dubai matches

The semifinals and the final of Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships were scheduled to be broadcast live on Tennis Channel this Friday and Saturday, but the channel's chairman and chief executive, Ken Solomon, along with the board of directors and staff, decided to suspend the broadcasts. Tennis Channel is taking this action in protest over the denial of a visa to Israel's Shahar Peer.

Said Solomon:
This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong. Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color, or religion. They are simply about talent. This is a classic case, not about what country did what to another country. If the state of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision.

Solomon went on to say:
The entire field of competitors is diminished by this happening. It hurts them all. Shahar earned the right to be in the tournament. She’s been on a roll and could have won it. It’s just hard to imagine this happening in this day and age.

Solomon also talked about having a "higher duty" because tennis has always been at the forefront of fighting different types of discrimination. (I'm not sure that tennis has always been at the forefront, but if Solomon believes it, and that is his motivation,then Justin Gimelstob should certainly not be in a Tennis Channel broadcast booth.)

Tennis Channel is the only entity to step forward and effect a formal boycott of the Dubai event. Diane Pucin, writing in The Los Angeles Times, has called for tour players to boycott the event:
It's too much to ask the WTA Tour to cancel the event. Not offending any sponsors seems more important than supporting a player who has been wronged, but what could have been an important statement by players supporting players seems to have been wasted.

Pucin goes on to name several players who should well understand bigotry and the harm that war does to sport. I thought of those same players, too, when Peer was denied the visa. She concludes:

Dubai would have no tournament this week if the athletes stood as a group and said no play without Peer. The tour should be canceling the event now.

It's an egregious misuse of politics against sports and one player has suffered. The suffering shouldn't be Peer's. It should be that of the tournament directors who don't have the guts to buck politics. The suffering should go to the tournament sponsors and to the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour. They owe it to all the players to stand up for one.


Todd Spiker said...

A nice symbolic act of support from Tennis Channel. If only some tour or sport as a whole would step forward, without reservation, and refuse to overlook the forest for the lucrative trees.

Diane said...

It troubles me that people are saying "How does this help Peer?" "How does this hurt Dubai?"

People who say such things completely miss the point: Someone has to do the right thing, to set an example. The tour is too motivated by money, and I imagine the top players are motivated, not so much by money, as they are by passivity, much of which is internalized in females by all cultures.

Having said that, I do wonder where Tennis Channel's social conscience was when women were being publicly trashed by one its commentators. Business as usual, I know, when it comes to this particular type of bigotry.

I hope that more journalists pop up like the L.A. Times writer did. People are not very courageous, so they all the encouraging they can find.

dearg said...

Hi Diane,

thank you for all the posts on your blog.
I have e-mailed on the WTA website (In the Contact Us section), obviously there has been no response from them on this issue.
I will try and ring them during office hours, I'm only getting an answering machine it's 19.40 p.m. with me.
I have to say Larry Scott's actions do not suprise me. But the players have left the biggest mark with their apathy to the situation.
If I remember correctly a number of top players didn't mind getting into a flap last december about the Roadmap.

Diane said...

You're right, dearg. And, as the L.A. Times writer points out, a number of them have felt the sting of either discrimination (actually, they've all felt that sting, but have chosen to ignore it) or war.

Anonymous said...

Thousands of Palestinian civilans have recently been killed by the Israeli military and tennis is suppose to go on as usual? I do not believe this is about money. It's about rage and perceived injustice. Political actions do matter---more than sports. Israel's actions have made it's citizens both unsafe and disliked, whether it is fair or not. I am sorry for Peer. Countries that will not allow all players should not hold tournaments, but I do not admire Solomon for cancelling the broadcast.

Diane said...

Anon, I think you're right--and wrong. I do not think the denial of the visa was about any one thing, but rather--a combination of political sentiment, economic concerns and fear of violence. Dubai officials themselves have named all of those factors.