Russian athletes have been banned from the Boston Marathon, Wimbledon tennis championships, and perhaps the next Olympic games. These punishments were not meted out to citizens of the U.S. and allied countries after the invasion of Iraq or destruction of Libya or to others whose governments commit war crimes.
Wimbledon, home of the world's most prestigious tennis tournament, is the latest to join the low hanging fruit fray of banning Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions.
The implications for tennis are significant. On the men’s side, two of the top ten players, including defending US Open champ and Australian Open finalist Daniil Medvedev are banned from playing. On the women’s side, 3 of the top 20, including 4th ranked Aryna Sabalenka and two-time major champ Victoria Azarenka are also banned from playing.
The implications beyond sports are the extension of the anti-Russian propaganda which serves to give the US/NATO cover in creating this situation.
Ukrainian tennis star Elina Svitolina, piled on by saying that she was “stunned” by the lack of humanity from Russian tennis players. She went on to say, “when there is genocide of Ukrainians and these players represent their countries, we need to know if they support such actions”
Her position is that if allowed to play on the tour, Russian and Belarusian players must first renounce the invasion. This is problematic on multiple levels.
No such requirement has ever been made of athletes from the United States despite its multiple illegal invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq nor its collaboration with NATO to destroy Libya. Its additional ongoing military actions on the African continent are just as inhumane. In fact, the day Russia advanced across the Ukrainian border, the US, through its AFRICOM operations, launched multiple drone strikes against the people of Somalia. This is a continuation of US interventions in this small country on the Horn of Africa over the course of 30 years during which an estimated 250,000 Somalians have died and some 3 million have been displaced.
Where are the bans of US and NATO member country athletes?
No such requirements have ever been made of athletes from Saudi Arabia. With US backing, it has created what many call the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with its war in Yemen during which an estimated 377,000 people have been killed. In addition, the Saudi monarchy has been implicated in literally chopping up a US journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
Where are the bans of Saudi Arabian athletes?
No such requirements have ever been made of athletes from Israel which has violently occupied Palestinian lands for over 70 years displacing over 7 million Palestinians world-wide. Nearly 100,000 have been killed by the Israeli occupying forces since 1948. This occupation has been funded by US tax dollars.
Where are the bans of Israeli athletes?
Svitolina is not alone in her selective outrage. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recommended a similar ban of Russian and Belarusian teams as those imposed by Wimbledon. This is the same body that forbade US athletes from engaging in any Colin Kaepernick type actions to protest police terrorism which are disproportionately carried out against Black people in the United States.
But the former 3rd ranked women’s tennis player has some peculiar contradictions. She appeals tof Russian players to express “humanity” in support of her and Ukraine while remaining silent about the massacre that has been ongoing in the predominantly Russian speaking Donbas region of her own country for the past eight years prior to the Russian invasion. This war has resulted in some 14,000 fatalities. Nor has she spoken out about the infamous Azov battalion which has been integrated into the Ukrainian military in spite of being openly Nazi. It is hard to imagine her being unaware of this given that she is married to the African former top ten player Gael Monfils who plays under the colonizing flag of France.
This is no small contradiction.
In the 1890s Africans were tortured in German concentration camps in Southwest Africa (now called Namibia). Colonial German doctors conducted unspeakable medical experiments on these Africans decades before such atrocities were to be visited upon Jewish and other concentration camp victims. Thousands of Africans were killed in Namibia. While the formal Nazi party was not founded until 1920, the actions in Africa were a model for later Nazi practices.
I do not object to Svitolina expressing herself on world affairs. I do object to selective moral indignation be it from her or the IOC. When we see this, it should be called out for the hypocrisy that it is!
Gus Griffin is a DC area freelance sports columnist and a member of both the Ujima People's Progress Party and the Black Alliance for Peace.