Anyone (not Russian) for tennis?

28 Jun

World Socialist Website, early today:

The staggering hypocrisy of Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players

David Walsh

Play began at the 135th edition of the Wimbledon tennis tournament in London on Monday without the participation of Russian or Belarusian athletes. The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club (AELTC) announced in April that it was going along with British government’s demands, part of the chauvinist hysteria aimed at justifying the US-NATO proxy war with Russia.

The ban on Russian and Belarusian players means that five of the top 100 male players, four Russians (Daniil Medvedev, Andrey Rublev, Karen Khachanov, Aslan Karatsev) and one Belarusian (Ilya Ivashka) will not be in attendance. Medvedev, reigning US Open champion, is currently ranked number one in the world and Rublev number eight.

Eleven of the top 100 female players, eight Russians (Daria Kasatkina, Veronika Kudermetova, Ekaterina Alexandrova, Ludmilla Samsonova, Varvara Gracheva, Anna Kalinskaya, Anastasia Potapova, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova) and three Belarusians (Aryna Sabalenka, Victoria Azarenka, Aliaksandra Sasnovich) have also been blocked from competing. Sabalenka, a semi-finalist at Wimbledon last year, is ranked number six in the world, Kasatkina number thirteen, Kudermetova number nineteen and Azarenka number twenty.

NOT WELCOME: Russia’s Daniil Medvedev

The prohibition on the tennis players has been widely criticized even within the elite tennis world. In order that the Russian and Belarusian players will not be penalized, the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals), the worldwide tour for men, and the Women’s Tennis Association, the equivalent for women, along with the International Tennis Federation, have stripped Wimbledon of ranking points this year, effectively reducing it, in the words of one commentator, to an “exhibition” tournament. However, the 40 million pounds (US$50 million) in prize money has continued to draw most of the top players.

Current and former tennis stars, including Novak Djokovic, Billie Jean King, Martina Navratilova, Patrick McEnroe and Sloane Stephens, have opposed the ban.

Describing himself as “a child of war,” in reference to the bloody conflicts in the Balkans in the 1990s, Djokovic, a Serb, has said that he does not see how the Russian and Belarusian players “have contributed to anything that is really happening. … I don’t feel it’s fair.” Stephens, a member of the WTA Player Council, former world number three and 2017 US Open champion, defended the decision to strip Wimbledon of its ranking points on the grounds that “discrimination will never be tolerated.

NOT WELCOME: Belarusia’s Aryna Sabalenka

The hypocrisy of the All England Club decision is almost supernatural. Chairman of the board Ian Hewitt told ESPN that the ban of Russian and Belarusian players was a decision that was “beyond the interests of tennis alone” and was “influenced by the directive guidance which the government gave us in relation to the matter.”

Hewitt went on to tell ESPN that given the profile the tournament had, “it was very important to us that Wimbledon … should not be used in any way, by the propaganda machine which we know the Russian government employs in relation to its own people and how their position in the world is presented and … we just would not countenance Wimbledon success or participation in Wimbledon being misused in that way.”

The crimes of the Putin regime are considerable, including its reactionary invasion of Ukraine, 1 which has provided the US and its gangster allies in Europe the occasion to intervene in the conflict, massively increase defense spending and bring the world to the verge of nuclear war.

However, what is the record of the Wimbledon tournament in relation to “tragic situations” (Hewitt) like the one in Ukraine? First of all, one needs to point out that black players were not allowed to play at the All England Club until 1951, and Jews were not accepted until 1952. Angela Buxton, the British Jewish former Wimbledon doubles champion in 1956 (as the partner of African-American Althea Gibson), told a reporter that 50 years after her triumph she had not been invited by the Club to join. She observed that she had been on the “waiting list” since she applied in the 1950s.

Since the first Wimbledon tournament in the 1870s, the British ruling class and its military have carried out invasions, occupations, massacres and assorted atrocities in so many parts of the globe (India, Ireland, Kenya, etc.) that it would take a dozen articles of this length merely to identify them. As the great Marxist Leon Trotsky once noted of British imperialism, “bribery, eloquence and deception, and colonial methods of sanguinary oppression and hypocrisy, along with every other form of vileness, have entered equally into the rich arsenal of the ruling clique of the world’s greatest empire.”

In more recent years, reduced to the status of a subordinate power, the British powers-that-be have acted as willing allies of the US in further massive crimes, in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Has the All England Club ever spoken out against or acted in regard to a single one of these horrors? The question is purely rhetorical.

The Club, whose board of directors includes the expected assortment of multi-millionaire businessmen, wealthy lawyers and lords and ladies, spiritually presided over by the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate Middleton), has turned itself, eagerly, without a whimper, into an arm of the despised Boris Johnson government and its filthy foreign policy. There is not much more to say.

* * *

  1. As I have since all of this kicked off, I disassociate myself from the characterisation by WSWS, and other analysts with whom I agree on many things, that Russia’s move – be it invasion or special operation – was “reactionary”. Neither WSWS, nor any other source with the nous to acknowledge Washington’s role and motives, has offered a convincing answer to the question of how else Moscow could or should have responded to decades of Western provocation. Few have even tried. What’s more, author David Walsh goes on to put the cart before the horse by saying Russia’s actual response “has provided the US and its gangster allies in Europe the occasion to intervene …”   I’m charitable enough to put this – a variant on Wet Streets Cause Rain Theory – down to sloppy phrasing, since WSWS has never to my knowledge gone so far as to echo Western corporate media in calling Moscow the prime instigator of this unholy mess.

6 Replies to “Anyone (not Russian) for tennis?

  1. In regard to the substance of the claim which is the theme of footnote 1 – echoed here by, of all people, Chomsky:

    ……the question need to be asked of those (including Chomsky) who take this position to justify with solid and credible evidence the logic of their argument which clearly implies, in defiance of all previous experience (as well as existing and available evidence to the contrary), that there was zero possibility of the nazi controlled Ukrainian regime invading the Russian speaking Oblasts, committing widespread atrocities against the civilian population and, on the back of any meaningful response from Russia, leading a NATO attack into the RF in line with the existing proposals of the RAND Corporation and stated policies of the West/NATO?

    Presumably, under this self indulgent virtue signalling position the obvious to a blind man on a galloping horse invasion and slaughter planned by the Ukraine Regime – which would have resulted in far more death and destruction than has already occurred and would have significantly increased the chances of nuclear escalation – is to be preferred.

    Allowing the woke liberal and Regressive Left to tut tut tut – like the caricature of the maiden aunt they have become – about how terrible it all is and why does someone else not do something about it? Hypocritically wanting to both have their cake and eat it by taking what they consider to be the high moral ground at the expense of yet even more victims of the Western elites they refuse point blank to effectively rein in.

    Fortunately, someone did do something about it.

    • Indeed.

      And I repeat that I’ve yet to hear a convincing argument, from those who acknowledge the West’s culpability yet still damn Moscow, as to what other course the latter should have pursued. As a matter of fact, and not for want of trying, I’ve only seen two attempts. One, by the otherwise admirable Jan Oberg at Transnational Peace Foundation, went right over my head with its convoluted logic. The other, by Paul Street in CounterPunch, was pushing the patently nonsensical line that the Kremlin could have blocked Ukraine joining NATO, and defeated the neo-Nazis who (under licence from Washington) now call the shots in Kiev, simply by flexing its economic muscles. Words fail me …

      • Setting aside the rights and wrongs of Russia’s Feb 21 and Feb 24 responses to those provocations (respectively: recognising the Donetsk/Luhansk People’s Republics, and sending armed forces in) not long ago those renowned military experts at WSWS were describing the Feb 24 move as “strategically imbecilic“.

        Not everyone agrees. See the Alex Mercurios video, first item in my previous post, Getting real about Ukraine

  2. Chomsky, for all his previous good work, seems to have lost his marbles on this one, and he’s made some dubious remarks before on other issues (don’t ask me what – it’s a residual bell tolling in my consciousness which I can’t pin down). Of course, he can make mistakes as we all can, but it’s hard to understand how he got into this position.

    On the positive side, he has been joined in this nonsense by the ‘gang of six’ Democrats who supposedly were a force for ‘progressive’ and ‘leftist,’ (in the US sense), thinking in Congress – thus showing themselves as being no more ‘progressive’ than D. Trump, and not in any way to be counted on to hinder the war machine.

    The ineptness of these ‘leftists’ combined with the wholly delusional forecasts of the think-tank brigade and the uncontrolled senile maunderings of Biden lead me to believe that there really is ‘something in the water’ in the USA. Which would make me very happy if it weren’t for the fact that it seems to be in the water over here too, and I can’t survive on beer alone!

    • You’re not wrong about Chomsky’s other lapses, Jams. Syria too was an arena where he failed to apply the splendid lucidity of his own thinking.

      (And another arena where most of the vanguardista – not, credit where it’s due, WSWS, but SWP and my old firm, Workers Power – proved just as credulous as George Monbiot and his Guardian reading fans. See my 2019 post, Syria – how Trotskyism got it so wrong.)

      • Well, I don’t imagine that anyone outside the SWP and WP gives one flying ‘f’ about what they think any more. On the positive side though Mick Lynch of the RMT seems to be causing havoc in the ranks of the lumpen commentariat. What a triumph he had on ‘Newsnight’ on some tory numpty whose name I couldn’t be bothered to ascertain. Wonderful stuff.

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