Boycotts in sports cannot promote human rights. But they harm individual athletes

Jerry Lynn is here. Wimbledon kicks off tomorrow, and its organizers have not missed a chance to be the last to declare their good faith in the Ukrainian conflict by imposing a ban on the participation of Russian athletes in this year’s tournament. They are doing this despite the fact that this gesture will not affect Russian politics in any way, but will only harm individual athletes. On the general issue of persecution of individual Russians for actions taken by the Russian government, see the excellent post by Gilbert Doctorow, T.The impact of Western sanctions on Russian musical life – which was linked to earlier.

I know the following article is a little goofy and suffers from some confusing thinking; however, I am posting it so that readers can discuss some of the broader issues surrounding such boycotts in the sports arena and elsewhere.

Hans Westerbeek, Professor of International Sports Business, Head of the Sports Business Analysis Group, University of Victoria, and Ramon Spaay, Professor, University of Victoria. Originally posted on Talk.

The organizers of Wimbledon, whose main draw kicks off on June 27, have found themselves in a quandary over their controversial decision to ban Russian and Belarusian players in protest of the invasion of Ukraine.

Banned players include current men’s world number one Daniil Medvedev, world number eight Andrey Rublev and women’s world number six Arina Sobolenko.

Both the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) fined Wimbledon for the ban. depriving a tournament of its ranking points.

As one of the world’s most prestigious tennis tournaments has evolved into a high-level showcase event, an increasing number of players dropped out of the tournamentincluding Naomi Osaka and Eugenie Bouchard (this shows how boycotters can boycott an event at the same time).

Such boycotts regularly occur in major sports as event organizers and attendees use its global reach to draw attention to human rights violations.

But boycott actions and retaliatory actions, including at Wimbledon, often do more harm to individual athletes who are citizens of those countries than to the condemned regime or event sponsors.

Sports and human rights

Former Australian golfer Greg Norman has drawn worldwide condemnation for his statement that “we all made mistakes” discussing the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi with the support of Saudi Arabia.

It hasn’t gone unnoticed that Norman is also the CEO of Saudi-backed LIV Golf Investments, which launched the PGA golf tour for the super-rich.

Norman’s refusal to kill and the appalling worldwide reaction to his comment show that sport can both highlight and ignore human rights violations.

Countries accused of violating these rights have found strategic, proactive approaches to counter punitive, reactive, and short-term methods of economic boycotts. And sport plays an important role in this, like the example of Qatar, which uses the World Cup as a confirmation of its authority and ability to host a globally significant event.

Such investment in “sportwashing” – using sports as a thin shell to represent a purified, friendlier version of a political regime or organization – is big business. The global impact of sport can be a vehicle for soft diplomacy and legitimacy.

November’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar remains the subject of a decade-long debate over how FIFA can award the world’s biggest sporting event to a country with dubious reputation in the field of human rights.

Now it’s only gotten worse with the evidence mass exploitation migrant workers building Cup stadiums.

While Australia may be less extreme in nature, it is not without human rights deficiencies in sport.

Why, for example, do Indigenous Australians remain underrepresented at the elite and community levels in most Australian sports? Why are Australian women not leaders in coaching? Why is there only one openly gay professional soccer player in Australia and no openly gay AFL players? Why did so many members of the Australian gymnastics and swimming teams report violence and toxic cultureswhat started when they were kids?

We must take into account that even playing sports is a universal human right in accordance with the Olympic and European sports chartersand other declarations and treaties ratified internationally.

However, most countries do not fully recognize and implement this concept in policy and practice, as access to participation in sport is often clouded by complexity and hypocrisy.

Did the Wimbledon boycott work?

The organizers of Wimbledon are clearly trying to convey the idea that the invasion of the sovereign territory of another state is unacceptable.

However, while the tournament may draw worldwide attention to its stance, has banning players from invading countries proven to be an effective means of protecting and defending human rights?

The answer is a resounding “no”.

The ban signaled that Wimbledon organizers were taking a stand against the Russian invasion of Ukraine. But defending a position does not protect and does not protect.

In this case, it hurts those who cannot be blamed for the war (banned tennis players), and the unforeseen consequences (no ranking points) harm the wider community of professional tennis players.

While sport can indeed be a valuable platform for advancing human rights, we must also recognize that it doesn’t take long for sport to become exclusive, divisive and controversial.

It is important to note that the use of sport to promote human rights requires that the protection of human rights in Australia, Russia or Qatar be measured by the same criteria, recognizing that more work needs to be done to ensure that every country’s sports environment is inclusive and free from discrimination.

In doing so, we can truly recognize sport as the universal human right that it is, and it can remain true to its core purpose of celebrating human potential and achievement.