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Wimbledon’s player ban isn’t fair, but it’s the right move

Russian and Belarusian tennis players can’t compete this year because of the attack on Ukraine.

Daniil Medvedev, who is from Russia, is one of the tennis players who will be banned from competing in this year's Wimbledon. The tennis tournament's organizers announced last week that because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, players from Russia and Belarus will not be able to compete. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP)
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Organizers of the famous Wimbledon tennis tournament in England announced last week that players from Russia and Belarus will not be allowed to play in the 2022 championships. Matches will start June 27.

Wimbledon officials said because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championships.”

Many sporting events — most notably soccer’s World Cup — have suspended Russian and Belarusian teams from competing. But Wimbledon is the first major event to do so for athletes who compete as individuals and not part of a national sports organization.

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

Lots of people, including the top-ranked male player, Novak Djokovic, as well as tennis legend and nine-time Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova, do not think the ban is fair. Djokovic and Navratilova made it clear that they are against the Russian invasion but said it is not good when sports are mixed with politics.

In some ways, telling tennis players that they cannot play in an important tournament just because they are 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 kids of times when in school the whole class is punished for something only a few kids did. You may have been good all morning but the class had to stay in for recess because some kids were misbehaving.

But it’s good to remember that the war in Ukraine is not fair either. Any war is more serious than a tennis tournament or school punishment.

In February, Putin ordered Russian troops to invade Ukraine, an independent country that was not threatening Russia. Since then, Russian forces have bombed the country’s cities, killing thousands of people. Millions of people, including a lot of kids, have had to leave their homes. Some have fled to other countries.

I think sports are important, but sometimes there are things going on in the world that are more important than sports. 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 athletic accomplishments to suggest that his government is doing a good job. At a war rally in March, for example, Putin appeared with several Russian Olympic figure skaters.

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

clarification

An earlier version of this story stated that Wimbledon was the first major event to ban Russian or Belarusian athletes who compete as individuals. To clarify, those individuals do not compete as part of a national sports organization. The story has been updated.