Tennis Australia (TA) should follow the lead of Cricket Australia (CA) which has withdrawn from the ODI cricket series in Afghanistan due to the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls, and make a principled stand by banning the participation of Russian tennis players in the Australian Open (AO).
Mr Stefan Romaniw OAM, Co-Chair of the Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations (AFUO) said today “As stated by CA boss, Nick Hockley, ‘basic human rights [are] not politics.’ CA has understood that when it comes to the values of fair play and equality, to continue to play the ODI cricket series against Afghanistan would be wrong.”
“TA has taken the weaker position of hiding behind platitudes about the ‘good of the game’ and a misconception that not playing under the Russian flag makes things right,” he added.
“Whilst Russian missiles fly, Ukrainian sportspeople fight on the front lines. In April 2022, the Ukrainian Tennis Federation’s tennis centre outside of Irpin was razed to the ground by the Russian military. Ukrainian tennis players can’t visit their country to live, train or visit family.
“Around the world, international sporting events such as Formula One, FIFA, the Olympics and Wimbledon have condemned Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine, by introducing sanctions against athletes. How can TA think it can be ‘business as usual?” he said.
“The AFUO calls upon TA to make a captain’s call and ban Russian players at the AO. The AO has made last minute changes to schedules before – it did it with Djokovic last year. So, it is not too late,” said Mr Romaniw.
“It would be a big step, but TA has the opportunity to show that it is an organisation with values and principles and understands Russian aggression in Ukraine is killing not only tennis players and destroying tennis courts, but depriving millions of light and heat and water and their right to live freely.
“The AFUO acknowledges the support of the tennis public at last Thursday’s Tennis for Peace event. 15,000 Australians stood with Ukraine, standing for Ukraine’s national anthem at Rod Laver Arena. It was another strong indication of the Australian public’s denouncement of Putin and Russian aggression in Ukraine.” Mr Romaniw said.
“Humanitarian support should not be confused with the principle of doing what is right. Russian tennis players should not be allowed to compete in international sporting competitions and be used to play out the fallacy that Russia has a normal, respected place in the world.
“Make no mistake – Putin uses the success of Russian sportspeople to promote Russian ‘soft power’ and detract from what Russia is doing in Ukraine,” added Mr Romaniw.