Tennis greats Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert have been accused of “turning their backs on women” after pushing back on plans to hold the season ending WTA Finals in Saudi Arabia’s capital.
“There should be a healthy debate over whether ‘progress’ and ‘engagement’ is really possible, or whether staging a Saudi crown-jewel tournament would involve players in an act of sports-washing merely for the sake of a cash influx,” they wrote in an op-ed piece printed in the Washington Post last month.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States, Princess Reema bint Bandar al-Saud, has responded, expressing that the pair’s stance is “beyond disappointing”.
Evert and Navratilova claimed that staging the tournament in Saudi Arabia “would represent not progress, but significant regression” with women’s rights in the country still subject to gender discrimination about marriage, family, divorce, and the criminalisation of same-sex relationships.
“Not only is this a country where women are not seen as equal, it is a country where the current landscape includes a male guardianship law that essentially makes women the property of men. A country that criminalises the LGBTQ community to the point of possible death sentences. A country whose long-term record on human rights and basic freedoms has been a matter of international concern for decades,” they wrote.
Princess Reema said Evert and Navratilova should “get [their] facts straight” on matters of the law influencing women’s rights and claimed their arguments were “based on outdated stereotypes and western-centric views of our culture”.
“Failing to acknowledge the great progress women have made in Saudi Arabia denigrates our remarkable journey. This not only undermines the progress of women in sports, it sadly undermines women, progress as a whole,” she said. Princess Reema did not address the pair’s criticism of laws that criminalise the LGBTQ community.
Sinner and Sabalenka capture Australian Open titles
Jannik Sinner of Italy and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus have won the men’s and women’s crowns at the Australian Open. Sinner came from two sets down to win in an enthralling five-set match against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. Sabalenka proved too strong for China’s Qinwen Zhang in straight sets. Austalia’s Matt Ebden and India’s Rohan Bopanna took out the men’s doubles, while Taiwan’s Hsieh Su-Wei and Belgium’s Elise Mertens took out the women’s doubles.