Will the Tennis Channel contribute to causing an international incident?

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Tennis Channel has become the Protest Channel.

The Los Angeles-based network decided not to televised as planned this weekend’s Sony Ericsson Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships in protest of the United Arab Emirates’ refusal to grant an entry visa to WTA player and Israeli citizen Shahar Peer (her official website linked here).

Said Tennis Channel chairman and CEO Ken Solomon in a statement today:

“Unfortunately the event will exclude a single player who has been blocked from entering the country due to her nationality. This is despite her having qualified for the competition via her on-court performance and current ranking. Tennis Channel recognizes that this exclusion has been made by state authorities and neither the tour nor tournament directors themselves. However we also honor the role and proud tradition that tennis has always played as a driving force for inclusion both on and off the courts. Preventing an otherwise qualified athlete from competing on the basis of anything other than merit has no place in tennis or any other sport, and has the unfortunate result of undermining the credibility of the very nature of competition itself.”

In today’s New York Times (linked here), Solomon also said: “This is an easy decision to come by, based on what is right and wrong. Sports are about merit, absent of background, class, race, creed, color or religion. They are simply about talent. … If the state of Israel were barring a citizen of an Arab nation, we would have made the same decision.”

Solomon said that Tennis Channel would carrying the tournament next year if Peer were granted a visa.

Organizers of the event said today (story linked here) security fears were behind the decision to bar Peer, and it could happen again when the men’s play begins next week when Israeli doubles specialist Andy Ram hopes to be in the draw on Sunday.

In a media-related story, the Wall Street Journal Europe decided to drop its sponsorship of the tournament because of the visa issue with Peer (story linked here).

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