Photo Credits: Reuters/ Andrew Couldridge
On Wednesday, the All England Club, organizers of the Wimbledon tennis competition, announced it has banned athletes from Russia and Belarus in response to the continued Russian-waged war in Ukraine. In a statement announcing the decision, the All England Club stated “[i]n the circumstances of such unjustified and unprecedented military aggression, it would be unacceptable for the Russian regime to derive any benefits from the involvement of Russian or Belarusian players with The Championship.” The club also stated its decision was made in an effort “to limit Russia’s global influence through the strongest means possible.”
The tennis Grand Slam consists of four major championships including, the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open. The Australian Open was in January and Russian player, Daniil Medvedev, was the runner up to Rafael Nadal. Wimbledon is the first of the four major tennis championships to ban Russian and Belarusian athletes. This complete ban of Russian and Belarusian players goes against the previous decision of the Association of Tennis Professionals, Women’s Tennis Association, and International Tennis Federation to ban Russia and Belarus from the team events, but still allow the players to compete individually without national identification. In fact, these organizations have stated their disagreement with Wimbledon’s decision to ban athletes from Russia and Belarus. The Belarusian Tennis Federation has threatened to take legal action in response to the decision.
However, this response has not been uncommon in the world of sports since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Several of our previous posts from the UB Law Sports Forum have discussed the conflict’s impact on international hockey and soccer competitions. It has even forced the hand of the Russian owner of the Chelsea soccer team to sell the team, as discussed by my colleague here.
Furthermore, in relation to this issue, this semester we had the distinct pleasure of welcoming Dan Milstein, a Ukrainian-born agent who represents many Russian National Hockey League athletes, to speak at one of our Roundtables. To learn more about Mr. Milstein, please see his profile here. The Roundtable conversation provided a unique perspective on this topic as Mr. Milstein discussed the various issues facing many Russian athletes in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
With the French Open set to take place starting May 22nd and the U.S. Open set to begin on August 29th, many will surely be watching to see whether the organizers of these other tournaments decide to follow the lead of Wimbledon. The organizers of these tournaments will certainly continue to monitor any potential legal action taken in response to this ban before making any final decisions regarding their respective tournaments.
 Tom Hamilton, “Wimbledon bans players from Russia and Belarus-what it means for world No. 2 Daniil Medvedev and others, ESPN, (April 20, 2022), https://www.espn.com/tennis/story/_/id/33772997/wimbledon-bans-players-russia-belarus-means-world-no-2-daniil-medvedev-others.
 Sally Jenkins, “Wimbledon’s ban on Russian players is unfair, personal- and exactly right,” The Washington Post, (April 21, 2022), https://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/2022/04/21/wimbledon-russia-medvedev/.
 Christopher Clarey, “Tours Argue Wimbledon Sets ‘Damaging Precedent’ in Barring Russian and Belarusian Players” New York Times, (April 20, 2022), https://www.nytimes.com/2022/04/20/sports/tennis/wimbledon-ban-russia-belarus-players.html
 Sean Ingle, “Russian’s Rublev accuses Wimbledon of ‘complete discrimination’ over ban,” The Guardian, (April 21, 2022), https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/apr/21/wimbledon-may-face-legal-action-over-ban-on-russian-and-belarusian-players/