Banning Wimbledon players isn’t fair, but it’s the right decision

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The organizers of the famous Wimbledon tennis tournament in England announced last week that players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to participate in the 2022 championships. Matches will start on June 27.

Wimbledon officials said that due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, “it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to benefit from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players in the championships”.

Numerous sporting events – notably the FIFA World Cup – have suspended Russian and Belarusian teams from competition. But Wimbledon is the first major event to do so for athletes competing as individuals.

The announcement means that several top players will not play. Russian Daniil Medvedev is the current US Open men’s champion and ranked second in the world. Andrey Rublev, also from Russia, is the eighth ranked man. Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus is fourth among women.

Many people, including top-ranked male player Novak Djokovic as well as tennis legend and nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, don’t think the ban is fair. Djokovic and Navratilova made it clear they were against Russian invasion but said it was no good when sport was mixed with politics.

In some ways, telling tennis players that they can’t compete in an important tournament just because they’re from a certain country is unfair. After all, Medvedev, Rublev and Sabalenka had nothing to do with Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine. Putin is the president of Russia.

This situation in which Russian athletes are being punished for Putin’s actions may remind children of the days when, at school, the whole class was being punished for something that only a few children did. You may have been good all morning, but the class had to stay in recess because some kids were misbehaving.

But it is worth remembering that the war in Ukraine is not fair either. Any war is more serious than a tennis tournament or a school punishment.

In February, Putin ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine, an independent country that posed no threat to Russia. Since then, Russian forces have bombed cities across the country, killing thousands. Millions of people, including many children, have had to leave their homes. Some fled to other countries.

I think sport is important, but sometimes things happen in the world that are more important than sport. It would be terrible if Putin or any other leader were allowed to invade a peaceful neighboring country and go unpunished.

Putin often points to Russian sports achievements to suggest that his government is doing a good job. At a war rally in March, for example, Putin appeared with several Russian Olympic skaters.

Perhaps part of the punishment for Putin and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should be that his athletes are not allowed to compete in important international competitions such as Wimbledon. Punishment may not be perfectly fair, especially for athletes, but I think it’s the right thing to do.

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