Saturday, February 28, 2009

WTA Fines Dubai $300,000 For Pe'er Ban

The WTA levied a $300,000 fine on the organizers of the Dubai Tennis Championships, more than twice as much as the previous record fine, after Shahar Pe'er was denied a visa from Dubai. The WTA also took steps to compensate Pe'er and her doubles partner for lost income and tour points as a result of being banned from the tournament. Pe'er will receive $44,250 from the fine and 130 ranking points, equivalent to what she earned in the same week last year. Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany, her doubles partner, will receive $7,950, roughly equal to her average weekly doubles earnings last year. The balance of the fine will go to a charity selected by the WTA and Pe'er.

The WTA felt justified in fining the tournament organizers in part due to their association with Dubai Duty Free, a company owned by the Dubai government. In addition, the tournament is: "Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai."

In announcing the fine, WTA CEO Larry Scott told the AP:
"I think what we hope with this decision is that we're sending a very clear message that we're not going to tolerate discrimination of any kind. We wanted to send a clear signal that this is the most egregious action the world of tennis has seen in recent history. And we felt that it should be at least double what the previous highest penalty was."

The WTA is taking all the right steps so far. With the granting of a visa to Andy Ram for next week's ATP tournament, it is clear that Dubai is getting the message. Hopefully, there will not be a repeat of this affair next year and there will be no need to remove this tournament from Dubai permanently. However, it cannot stop with tennis. Israel is systematically excluded from competition in Arab states. It is forced to compete in European competitions instead of Asian because Arab states refused to allow it to compete in their groups. These boycotts must end. The Olympic movement must end its tacit acceptance of this discrimination and stand up for what is right and fair and just. It's long past time to end anti-Semitism in world sport.

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