By Jon Wertheim, SI.com
The UAE denied Israel's Shahar Peer a visa on account of her nationality. Thus a player who otherwise qualified, was prevented from competing in a WTA event, a wildly lucrative one at that. The WTA released a statement expressing "deep disappointment" but -- a classic case of actions speaking louder than words -- the show went on. With Peer left back in Israel.
I don't envy Larry Scott and his minions here. Particularly in this economic climate, it takes real courage to stand on principle and cancel a $2 million event (and that's before appearance fees), especially when it's tied to one of your major sponsors. No doubt, anticipating backlash, the UAE waited until this weekend to deny Peer's visa. By that time, the rest of the field had flown in from all over the world. Imagine calling the players -- and their agents -- and explaining that they all have to turn around and come home empty-pocketed (and return appearance fee money) because one of their colleagues was having a visa issue.
Nevertheless there's something terribly disingenuous about the WTA's outrage here. When the Tour allowed itself to be bought by oil money several years ago, the risks were abundantly clear. Hell, years ago, we at the mailbag discussed the likelihood of this exact scenario.
Now that it's happened, you can express "disappointment" but you can hardly claim surprise. The notion a tournament shouldn't be held captive to the action of the government doesn't hold up here either, not when patrons of the event are the vice president and prime minister of the UAE and the ruler of Dubai.
Regardless of how this is spun, this is deeply embarrassing for the Tour. An organization that trades on social progress, that can hardly unveil a new logo without invoking Billie Jean and "a legacy of pioneering," gave into bigotry. At a bare minimum the WTA needs to make this point unmistakably clear for the future: "We all play; or no one plays. Petrodollars or no petrodollars."