Wow! This is a shocker! Tennis Channel is making a big time statement by canceling its broadcast of this week’s WTA tournament in Dubai. That’s putting your money where your mouth is, folks. The NYTimes reports, below:
Tennis Channel Won’t Televise Dubai Event in Protest
The Tennis Channel will not televise the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships this week to protest the United Arab Emirates’ refusal to grant an entry visa to the Israeli player Shahar Peer. Peer was scheduled to play Anna Chakvetadze in the first round.
“This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong,” Ken Solomon, the chairman and chief executive of the network, said Monday from Utah.
“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.”
The $2 million tournament is a premier nonmajor tournament on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour with 9 of the world’s top 10 women. Peer is ranked No. 48.
The event is part of a package of rights to several international tournaments acquired by the Tennis Channel from the WTA.
Solomon, who said he would consider carrying the tournament next year if Peer were granted a visa, said he began thinking Sunday about canceling the network’s coverage. He spoke to his staff and to board members, and heard no significant dissent, before calling Larry Scott, the chairman and chief executive of the WTA Tour, on Monday.
Scott said by telephone that he was not expecting the network’s cancellation, but that he understood it.
“I’m sorry it was in the position of having to make the decision,” he said, adding, “We’ve got some of the same feelings but many more complications.”
Solomon was not critical of the WTA’s decision to play the tournament.
“It’s easier for us to pull the plug,” he said. “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.”
He added: “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.”
Scott said that United Arab Emirates officials did not tell him why Peer was denied the visa, but that he believed Israel’s incursion into Gaza was a crucial element of the decision. Still, he said, he knew for about a year that Peer might have trouble entering Dubai.
At a tournament in Auckland, New Zealand, last month, she faced a protest over Israel’s action in Gaza.
Solomon said that his channel had a “higher duty” to refuse to carry the Dubai event.
“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,” he said. “It’s harder for the Tennis Channel to turn the other cheek and not do the right thing.”
I think the WTA may be getting the hint. . .