The All England Club’s decision to ban Russian and Belarusian tennis players from competing at this summer’s Wimbledon tournament has been highly controversial.
On Tuesday, Wimbledon chairman Ian Hewitt defended the decision, essentially putting the blame on the U.K. government for why players from Russia and Belarus will be denied entry into the tournament.
“The UK Government has set out directive guidance for sporting bodies and events in the UK with specific aim of limiting Russia’s influence,” Hewitt said, according to Sky Sports.
“We have considered at length the options available,” Hewitt continued. “These are in effect two options: declining entries or allowing entries but only with specific declarations (against the invasion of Ukraine) from individual players.”
Hewitt said that while considering the option for Russian and Belarusian players to enter Wimbledon after presenting written declarations against the war in Ukraine, the safety of the players and their families was a concern.
“We believe we have made the most responsible decision possible,” Hewitt said. “We believe [given Government guidance] there is no viable alternative in this truly exceptional and tragic situation.”
Following the All England Club’s ban, many within the tennis world spoke out against the decision.
The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) criticized the decision by Wimbledon, calling the ban of players from Russia and Belarus “discrimination.”
“Discrimination based on nationality also constitutes a violation of our agreement with Wimbledon that states that player entry is based solely on ATP Rankings,” the men’s governing body said. “Any course of action in response to this decision will now be assessed in consultation with our board and member councils.”
The Women’s Tennis Association said that tennis professionals from both countries should not be banned from competing.
“As the WTA has consistently stated, individual athletes should not be penalized or prevented from competing due to where they are from, or the decisions made by the governments of their countries,” the WTA said on April 20 in a statement on its website. “Discrimination, and the decision to focus such discrimination against athletes competing on their own as individuals, is neither fair nor justified.”
The world’s number one tennis player — Novak Djokovic — also weighed in, calling the decision by the All England Club “crazy.”
“I know how much emotional trauma [war] leaves,” Djokovic said. “In Serbia we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans, we have had many wars in recent history. However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy.”
“When politics interferes with sport, the result is not good,” he continued.
Wimbledon is scheduled to be played from June 27 to July 10.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers, and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to [email protected].