Last month in the Dubai Championships, a Women's Tennis Association event, Venus Williams defeated Israel's Shahar Peer (photo above) in a semifinals match. That was the widely reported sports bulletin--here is the rest of the story.
Last year, the Dubai tournament was fined $300,000 by the WTA when Dubai refused to grant Shahar Peer an entry visa so that she could compete in the tournament. This year, it appeared that the fine might not deter Dubai from again banning Peer. That is when Venus Williams stepped up to the net and announced that if Dubai did not permit Peer to compete in the tournament, Venus also would not participate. Faced with the loss of its defending champion, Dubai relented and granted Peer an entry visa.
At the Dubai tournament, Williams actually lauded the courage of Peer in coming to play in a setting where her life might be at risk. As quoted by AP, Williams said:
"I felt like I had to talk about her. I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her. My dad grew up in an area where if you spoke too much, it was your life. So I felt I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone will listen."
Not so many years have passed since players of color were barred from competition in major sporting events. That ban would have fallen much faster had white players conditioned their participation on open access to athletes of color.
Incidentally, Venus successfully defended her title and won the tournament. [See photo below.] A WTA championship is always an accomplishment, but it pales in significance with the courageous stance taken by Ms. Williams in insisting that an Israeli athlete be allowed to compete. Way to go, Venus! You are now my favorite WTA star!
[Hat tip: Al Levine]