Israel's leading female tennis player, Shahar Peer, was refused a visa for entry into the United Arab Emirates yesterday, as politics threatened the future of one of the world's richest tennis tournaments.
The UAE does not have diplomatic relations with Israel and tournament organisers believe the decision to refuse entry to Peer was a reaction to the recent conflict in Gaza.
So, what say ye, WTA?
Pending further deliberations, the tournament could yet be cancelled, or scrapped in future, as the WTA last night insisted that a prerequisite for tournaments played under its rules was that players had free and equal access to all events. The WTA chief executive, Larry Scott, said he was "deeply disappointed" by the UAE decision to deny Peer a visa.
Recall back in the 80s, former E Street Band-er, Steven Van Zandt, formed Artist United Against Apartheid to protest the racial segregation policies of the South African government and in the process recorded an album Sun City which was in reference to the high rollers resort located in a reservation-like bantustan within South Africa.
While 80s musicians wanted to convince everybody that they were truly digging deep by “not gonna play Sun City”, the sporting world and the UAE represents a bit thornier a challenge.
The UAE hosts and sponsors some of most lucrative events on tennis, golf and horse racing schedule so it remains to be seen if petrol-dollars will trump WTA bylaws…and principle.
And since you asked, here is the title-track of the aforementioned protest album. Ladies and gentlemen, Little Stevie, Bruce, Miles, Bono, Ringo, Pat Benatar, the other guy from Hall and Oates, Clarence Clemons, Grand Master Flash, Lou Reed, Run DMC, Motley Crue… Motley Crue? and a cast of thousands tying up traffic in L.A. and New York.
P.S. If memory serves correctly, Frank Sinatra received a ration of grief for not getting onboard with his younger counterparts as he continued to play Sun City. We believe his response was something along the lines of, “damn hippies”.