WTA: Bans for Russian, Belarusian players would not be fair

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The WTA is under pressure to ban Russian and Belarusian tennis players from competing, but the association sticks to its stance that politics and sports should not mix and athletes should not be victims of their government’s decisions.

Steve Simon WTA
Steve Simon, WTA Chairman & CEO

In order to force Russia to stop its invasion of Ukraine, a lot of countries have imposed sanctions. Some sports such as athletics, badminton, canoeing and rowing have banned individual Russian and Belarusian athletes from taking part in competition. Tennis “feels very very strongly” that Russian and Belarusian players should not be punished for the decisions of their politicians.

We have to note that Russian and Belarusian tennis players are currently playing under a neutral flag, and they’ve been kicked out of team competitions (Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup), but they are largely able to continue their careers as normal.

Ukrainian players are frustrated by the WTA’s stance and they often urge tennis authorities to ban Russian players. Ukraine’s Marta Kostyuk recently expressed how hurt she feels by the behavior of her Russian colleagues, saying “the only problem they have is not being able to transfer the money and stuff… that’s what they’re talking about.”

Talking to BBC Sport, WTA head Steve Simon explained:

I can tell you that we have never banned athletes from participating on our tour as the result of political positions their leadership may take.

So it would take something very, very significant for that to change, but again we don’t know where this is going.

However, if national governments start to prevent certain players from entering their country, tennis authorities will consequently have to comply. Still, the WTA Chairman & CEO strongly believes that players “should not be the ones that are being penalised by the decisions of an authoritarian leadership that is obviously doing terrible, reprehensible things.”

Overall, the WTA’s position is that players would be innocent victims of sanctions and it wouldn’t be fair to isolate them because of the decisions of their government. Still, the future remains uncertain.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with that. Also a lot of Russian players have spoken out against the war. They are innocent victims here who got caught in the crossfire.

  2. Russian and Belarusian players should be Banned. Imagine you are an Ukranian player up against a Russian or Belarusian, not right situation. Playing under no flag is stupid, everyone knows they are Russian or Belarusian and it is announced and discussed as such on the events during play. To allow them to play is saying tennis is ok with the invasion. Russia and Belarus should be sanctioned from ALL sports similar to the economic sanctions. To do otherwise is providing support to Putin and his war. These two countries must be isolated from all that the free world offers to decent countries. If the players are against the war then change citizenship and represent another country, if not they should be out. No exceptions.

  3. Steve Simon should be fired based on the below response. “something very, very significant” — WHAT IS MORE SIGNIFICANT THAN INVADING A COUNTRY AND RANDOMLY BOMBING CIVILIANS, WOMEN, CHILDREN. I am actually disgusted by the reply. Steve – what would you do if your town was being bombed? Would that make it “very, very significant”? You are an idiot. Do the right thing and get the ATP to do the same.

    The WTA head, Steve Simon explained:

    I can tell you that we have never banned athletes from participating on our tour as the result of political positions their leadership may take.
    So it would take something very, very significant for that to change, but again we don’t know where this is going

  4. i ALSO CANNOT UNDERSTAND why BLR players are equal to RUS in this creteria of decision.
    there are also some more RUS allies but they are not banned like BLR

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