TO PLAY OR NOT TO PLAY IN SAUDI ARABIA – AN OPEN LETTER TO NOVAK

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Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Hi Novak,

You know me from the many wide-ranging questions I’ve asked you over the years. Recently I showed you a copy of our Wimbledon issue with a picture of you on the cover just as you won Wimbledon, with the headline “He’s Back.”

I am writing because I admire you so much for your compelling journeys through life, for your love of your teacher Jelena, for your thoughtfulness, for your great game, and for your willingness to reflect, meditate and be aware. I too, spent many years in meditation and I edited a book called “A Pilgrim’s Guide to Planet Earth.”

I am reaching out because I am a journalist and because of my admiration for you. I fear you will be facing a deeply damaging backlash if you play in the exhibition with Rafa which is scheduled in December in Saudi Arabia. I know you have signed contracts and there is a great deal of money at stake for you and your team. But there are far more important things at stake. The leadership of Saudi Arabia that ordered the cruel and brutal murder of a journalist colleague is now waging a fierce war of starvation in Yemen on many innocents, including children, and is said to be one of the least free countries in the world. There have been 18,000 airstrikes there. According to the UN, one-third have targeted civilians, and a shocking 5.2 million children are at risk of starvation. The truly haunting photos of emaciated and starving Yemeni kids that the New York Times recently published were simply heartbreaking.

More than any other sport, tennis has a long history of its stars making courageous stands. John McEnroe refused $1 million to play an exhibition in apartheid-ridden South Africa. Arthur Ashe also refused to go to South Africa and was arrested in front of the White House. Shahar Peer, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, Althea Gibson and Billie Jean King are just a few others who have used their great success and hard-earned platforms to help, rather than hinder, the advance of consciousness and humanity.

Whether down match point to Roger in New York, in this year’s Wimbledon semi, at the Davis Cup or in your Roland Garros win, you have demonstrated tremendous on-court courage. Now you have an extraordinary opportunity to show courage and moral leadership off court and be an important example of standing up for human rights to fans across the globe, rather than be a part of the well-funded, multi-sport governmental initiative of a tyrannical regime which is trying to fool the world with a message that it is somehow normal and forward-thinking. You have the precious opportunity to stand up for humanity and do the right thing. I believe you know in your heart this would be the right thing to do for you, your family and the family of man.

Thank you for your reflection on this critical issue.

Sincerely,

Bill Simons
Founder, Editor and Publisher
Inside Tennis

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