The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO) has followed up its call to ban the Russian flag at the Australian Open by asking Tennis Australia (TA) to ensure pro-Russian symbols such as the neo-nazi ‘Z” and pro-Putin t-shirts don’t make their way courtside, provide additional support to Ukrainian players and reconsider its policy of welcoming athletes from Russia and Belarus.
In a letter sent yesterday to TA, the AFUO urged TA to ensure no further opportunities are offered for symbols representing the brutal Russian war to be displayed and broadcast on Australian television and around the world. This includes Russian-branded sportswear, the well-known ‘Z’ neo-Nazi symbol used by the Russian military and pro-war/Putin imagery.
The letter also asked TA to uphold the values it has endorsed in its Code of Behaviour: Competitive Play which seeks to provide a welcoming and safe environment that promotes the social and emotional wellbeing of tennis players.
“The feelings of Marta Kostyuk and Elina Svitolina are well known. They have said it is extremely difficult for Ukrainian athletes to live, train and compete whilst Russia continues to wage its war on Ukraine,” said AFUO Co-Chairs Mr Stefan Romaniw OAM and Ms Kateryna Argyrou in the letter.
The AFUO also urged TA to review its policy of welcoming Russian and Belarusian players to participate in Australian tennis competitions. Instead, it should follow the lead set by Formula One, FIFA, the Olympics and Wimbledon which have introduced sanctions against Russian athletes.
“A banner of ‘neutrality’ provides Putin and the Russian Federation a platform for the promotion of Russian ‘soft power’. Even as ‘neutral’ players, Russia can continue to play out the fallacy that Russia has a normal, respected place in the world. Its sportspeople can be used to detract from the brutality of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
“[Unless] Russian or Belarusian players…have condemned the Russian invasion, [allowing them to play] compromises TA’s ability to promote fair play in sport and the development of a code which respects equality, inclusivity and integrity,” said the Co-Chairs.
Image Source: William West, Agence France-Presse