Venus, Serena Dropped the Ball with Shahar Pe’er in Dubai

Earlier this week the Barclays Dubai WTA tournament didn’t let Israeli player Shahar Pe’er play in the tournament. Specifically the United Arab Emirates did not allow her a visa into the country citing security issues because she’s Jewish. The WTA considered canceling the tournament but determined it wouldn’t be fair to all the other players who had already arrived in Dubai and were prepared to play. They also threatened not to return to Dubai next year. Since then, the UAE has said they will grant a visa to Andy Ram, an Israeli male, so he can participate in the men’s tournament next week. I’m particularly perturbed that more tennis players didn’t stand up for Pe’er and threaten to boycott the tournament for their blatantly discriminatory practice. I’m also upset with Venus Williams and Serena Williams for not stepping up when the opportunity presented itself. Here was Venus’ reasoning:

“I have to look at the bigger picture. The big picture is that Shahar Peer didn’t get a chance to play, but making an immediate decision we also have to look at sponsors, fans and everyone who has invested a lot in the tournament.

There are so many other people involved. Sponsors are important to us,” Williams said. “We wouldn’t be here without sponsors and we can’t let them down. Whatever we do, we need to do as a team – players, sponsors, tour and whoever – and not all break off in one direction. We are team players.”

What disappoints me is that in a time when Venus had a chance to step up and make a statement against what she knows is wrong, she decided to recite the company line and cite economical reasons. The reason I single out the Williams sisters is because they are two of the biggest names on the tour and because they have experienced racial discrimination in their lives. If anyone would know how badly Pe’er feels and how important it is to speak up at a time like this, I would think it would be them. Moreover, from what I could tell, they were the only American women (and certainly by far the most prominent if there were others) in the tournament, representing a country that stands for equal rights and democracy. If ever there was a time to take a stand, this was it. It’s a shame that they and the other women didn’t speak up.

Around The Web

  • SpinMax

    You’re right, they should have walked. They have the financial resources to take such a stand.

  • Gene

    Three cheers for Andy Roddick, the defending champion at Dubai. He notified the tournament that he will not be defending his title because of the treatment of Peer. Roddick gave up a lot to take this stand. With Nadal and Federer injured, Andy had a royal chance to repeat, since he has been playing very well.

    Obviously, if Roddick could boycott the tournament, then the Williams sisters’ excuses look even more flimsy.

  • JS

    Gene – the Williams sisters live for flimsy excuses. Have they ever lost a match, other than to each other, when they didn’t have a flimsy excuse for losing?

    Maybe they would have boycotted if it were a black Israeli who was denied a visa.

    Yes, kudos to Roddick who showed some gumption and class.

  • ibm

    Venus actually showed more class than Roddick by showing up. In civil rights struggles, you never sit in the back of the bus. Shahar Peer was actually adamant that the other players do not boycott. She herself, stated that she is looking forward to playing next year.

  • marielle bingham

    You make a good point, ibm. What Roddick did was wonderful, but by playing and winning, Venus Williams had a marvelous opportunity to literally speak directly to the world about the treatment of Peer. And Venus did not disappoint. In addition to thanking the fans and sponsors, Venus seized that opportunity in that high-profile platform, to state clearly for all the world that Peer should have been welcome to compete. Venus was eloquent on behalf of her sometime competitor. Just as she ( Venus )was eloquent in writing that wonderful open letter to the largest newspaper in England and changing history. Because of Venus, female tennis players now get equal money with male players at Wimbledon and at The French Open. Good job, Venus! And thanks again for standing up for Peer!

  • http://larrybrownsports.com HoneyBee

    The one thing I notice that nobody has mentioned about the Dubai tournament is that Andy Ram didn’t give up his opportunity to play in support of fellow-Jew Shahar Peer. When it became clear that he would be allowed to play, play he did. So if he didn’t pull out of the tournament in support of Peer, why should it be Venus and Serena’s responsibility to take on the issue? Why not Dementieva or Jankovic? They’re famous in their own right. And what about Peer’s friends on tour? Why didn’t they withdraw? It’s amazing the number of excuses people find to be angry with the W illiams Sisters. Andy Roddick chose not to play. If it was truly because of Peer, that’s lovely of him, but maybe it was also a convenient out because he was injured and needed that break. I like Roddick, but I’m just saying. In the end, Venus made a lovely and thoughtful speech on Peer’s behalf during the trophy presentation. I thought she did a brave thing.

  • Jazz Too

    This is an old story but I thought I would still chime in. It’s not the Williams Sister responsibilty to defend other players rights; when the ladies was getting treated bad (still are in some cases) nobody sat out of matches. Why is it the people think African American are obligated to jump to others defense when descimination happens. African American are still experiencing desrimination today. Hell its hard enough to defend yourself now you think the ladies should do any more than what they did. Personally I think Ms. Venus said too much, she’s there to play tennis and serve as a right activist.