THE war in Ukraine has cast its shadow even in the French Open. Well, it has in many sporting events where Russian and Belarusian athletes have been banned from participation.
The exception has been the UFC that makes no distinction about nationalities or even politics; just pure mixed martial arts action. And there’s tennis that has opened its doors to athletes from these pariahs of a country.
After Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk was ousted by Aryna Sabalenka in Day 1 of this major tennis event at Roland Garos, the former who the crowd rooted for her during the match, turned on her when she refused to shake hands with the latter after the loss.
It’s a profound and striking moment that the American audience supported Kostyuk then booed for her lack of sportsmanship.
Then following a tense post-match moment—this time with a Ukrainian journalist who posed questions about Sabalenka’s support for Belarusian president Aleksandr Lukashenko who is an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin and his war in Ukraine—Sabalenka skipped a post-match press conference citing watching over her mental health.
While I am openly against Russian aggression in Ukraine, I do draw the line of this confrontational questioning during a sporting event. I thought that Daria Meshcheriakova, a journalist from Ukraine, was wrong as she took away from the tennis event with her line of questioning.
Sports are already hotly contested events and we have seen sour and testy comments after painful losses.
I do not agree with everyone’s politics but each to his own and there are proper venues to address these opinions.
I am aware of sporting venues with thousands in attendance and many more watching either on television or on streaming. That makes for a huge and captured audience. Hence, people want to make statements.
You have those fighting for certain rights or political stands. What happens when that stand is contrary to most? Whether he is right or wrong in their thinking is their own. You take the consequences of your actions and thoughts, good and bad.
That is why I am against all these political statements regardless of what spectrum it is during sporting events. It is a slippery slope. If you allow one, you have to allow others.
It is unfortunate that this war—I disagree that it is a special military operation as what the Russian dictator—has disrupted and affected all of life. It has put the world on the brink of a frightening Third World War. While politics affects all of life, it need not permeate itself into every fabric of life.
There is nothing more annoying or upsetting when you are watching a film or a sporting event and something comes out from left field that has nothing to do with it.
My heart goes to the people of Ukraine and even Taiwan. But in sports, let’s just play ball.