Google Down the Line!: (UPDATED) THE LOW DOWN: ATP World Tour preparing for Dubai action, Tennis Channel cancels coverage amidst Shahar controversy

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

(UPDATED) THE LOW DOWN: ATP World Tour preparing for Dubai action, Tennis Channel cancels coverage amidst Shahar controversy

There's more fallout from the UAE's decision not to grant Shahar Peer a visa into Dubai.

The ATP World Tour has been closely following the news with their tourney beginning next week. The Israeli doubles team of Jonathan Erlich + Andy Ram have expressed interest in playing and ATP board of directors member Justin Gimelstob said the organization would stand behind their ballers:

We are very disappointed to hear about the decision with Shahar Peer and we are looking at it and are very concerned.

We believe very strongly that players of all religions, ethnicities and nationalities be allowed to play. We discussed that with Dubai and are adamant all players get access to the tournament.
If Andy Ram were not to get his visa that would be very troubling. It's a clear-cut rule that everyone should be allowed to play tour events.

We are on top of it and are trying to sort out the information.
ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti also condemned the UAE's decision saying,
We will be in contact with the UAE Tennis Association to remind them the ITF constitution does not permit discrimination on any grounds. The ITF believes sport should not be used as a political tool but rather as a unifying element between athletes and nations.
And U.S.-based Tennis Channel has canceled their coverage of Dubai after Ken Solomon, the chairman and chief executive of the network, learned of the UAE's decision and discussed removing coverage of the tourney with staff and their board of directors:
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.

It’s easier for us to pull the plug. It’s different for Larry and the WTA, who were more or less strung along and led to believe she would get the visa. His players were on the ground, and everything was in motion.

The rug was pulled out from under their feet.
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.
Tennis in many ways has been at the forefront of sport, with people breaking down barriers like Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and Billie Jean King.

It’s harder for the Tennis Channel to turn the other cheek and not do the right thing.
Huge kudos to the Tennis Channel for taking a stand on this issue. And, it'll be interesting to see what "stand behind their ballers" means to the ATP if Andy is denied a visa by the UAE (which will most likely happen.) They will have had a bit more time to make a Plan B after watching the WTA's struggles.

Still no word on any further actions by the ladies' governing body.

Stay tuned.

UPDATE: Dubai tourney officials site security concerns as reason for denying Shahar a visa -
Organizers of a major Dubai women’s tennis tournament say fears of protests and security threats were behind the decision to bar the entry of an Israeli player.

The statement Tuesday was the first from the Dubai Tennis Championships. It came three days after the Emirates denied a visa for Shahar Peer.

Tour officials strongly criticized the decision and said they may consider dropping Dubai as a future WTA site.

The statement said the recent Israeli incursion into Gaza “antagonized” local fans and Peer’s presence could have sparked protests, boycotts and threats.

The UAE could face more pressure from tennis officials if Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram seeks to play in the men’s championship next week.
UPDATE #2: Doug Robson is reporting that according to a source Andy's request for a visa has been denied.

(image via Getty)


  1. As if tennis channel shows all that much tennis to begin with. As bad as the actions of UAE are, how, exactly is this going to hurt the tournament?

  2. True enough JadeFoxxy but at this point it's more than anything the WTA has done.

    It may not hurt the tourney in terms of monies but really what more could they do besides cancel their coverage in support of Shahar?

  3. Well Shahar apparently did not want the tourny cancelled, and the other players are clearly not boycotting it, so I guess one gotta take the victories where you can get them. Why do sports and politics need to mix? 'sigh'

  4. That's exactly what I think - they supposedly discussed canceling the tourney with Shahar though it would've been difficult nonetheless with all of the other lady ballers already on the ground in Dubai.

    I'm really curious to see the ATP's response if, and when, their ballers are denied their visa.

  5. I just hope that this whole situation leads to some "teachable moments" for the Tour and for Dubai. As much as I disagree with the refusal to grant Peer a visa, I also believe that it is incredibly naive for anyone to trumpet this narrative of "sports and politics should be separate". Politics are never out of the equation, and I would much rather these athletes take advantage of their incredibly public voice and talk to the issues. Say what you will about Djoke, but at least when he plays a Croat or a Bosnian he makes a point of trying to show unity and good will (even if some fans blow it out of proportion as at the AO). I love that some of the women players are speaking out, although it would have been nice for some of them to pull out (Amelie did - not sure if it was for political reasons, but she seems the most likely to do something like that of the current crop of players).

    Sorry, rambling.

  6. "As a 19-year-old, Peer joined the Israeli military, as military service is mandatory in Israel, where she excelled in rifle marksmanship during her elementary combat training. When not abroad participating in tennis tournaments, she spends her mornings working as an administrative secretary for the Israeli military, and her afternoons practicing tennis."

  7. TO: what's your point?


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