Collective guilt is a racist, authoritarian mindset
Punishing civilians of Russian descent for the crimes of the Russian government and Vladimir Putin will only help him to consolidate more power
One of the most, if not the most, prestigious tennis tournaments in the world, Wimbledon, has announced that players of Russian and Belarusian nationality will be banned from competing in this year’s tournament.
On behalf of the All England Club and the Committee of Management of The Championships, we wish to express our ongoing support for all those impacted by the conflict in Ukraine during these shocking and distressing times…
Given the profile of The Championships in the United Kingdom and around the world, it is our responsibility to play our part in the widespread efforts of Government, industry, sporting and creative institutions to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.
In the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.
It is therefore our intention, with deep regret, to decline entries from Russian and Belarusian players to The Championships 2022.
This means that Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev will not be able to play at Wimbledon, and will instead be playing at a smaller, far-less prestigious tournament in the Netherlands. This is noteworthy because Medvedev is currently ranked by the ATP as the second-best player in the world, behind only Serbian Novak Djokovic who is currently ranked as number one. In other words, one of the two best tennis players on the entire planet is banned from the biggest tennis tournament because the authoritarian government, which he has no power to influence, that rules over the country that he just so happened to be born in invaded their neighboring country.
As an aside, isn’t interesting how no American athletes were ever banned from any tournament or event for the destructive, illegal, and evil invasions of Afghanistan or Iraq, or for the ongoing genocide being perpetrated in Yemen by the government of Saudi Arabia with the financial and military backing of the United States government?
Let’s forget about Medvedev, however, and think about the younger, less successful tennis players from Russia or Belarus who will now miss out on the chance to ply their craft on tennis’s biggest stage. How much money will they have potentially lost out on, whether in prize money or endorsements? What if, unlike the highly successful Medvedev, they rely on that money to live? Not every professional tennis player is fabulously wealthy. Some of them must be simple journeymen who will never come close to winning a big tournament, but can earn enough for their families to live off of and continue to play so long as they can win enough prize money and get enough endorsements. If you ban them from playing in the biggest tournament of the year you’re literally taking money out of their family’s mouths and possibly even forcing them to quit playing tennis professionally entirely.
If you think targeting these people that Vladimir Putin couldn’t care less about sends any kind of message to him, then you’re not thinking coherently. What you’re actually doing is sending a message to every Russian and Belarusian citizen that Putin is right about you being their enemy and that you do want to ruin their lives, and then who will they have to turn to other than Putin? And, if I were Putin, I would immediately release some propaganda pointing out how Russia has the best tennis players in the world and how the west is too afraid to face them even on the tennis court.
The better policy would be to say that we in the west are nothing like Vladimir Putin, and we know that Russian civilians and Russian athletes have nothing to do with his horrible war against Ukraine and that of course they are welcome to compete in western tournaments. And if someone like Daniil Medvedev or another Russian or Belarusian player were to win the Wimbledon championship in 2022 then the people of those countries would have a real hero to look up to and be inspired by. We should be embracing the people of Russia and Belarus as victims of authoritarian governments and wishing them every success in rising above that, not treating them like lepers and punishing them for crimes they didn’t commit.