Why Wimbledon’s Decision to Ban Russian Players is Justified

No, it is not an overgeneralization.

Wimbledon banned players from Russia and Belarus from participating in this year’s championship, as a reaction to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The decision was met with a lot of criticism, especially since it means that top players like Daniil Medvedev — Men’s world number two —, and Aryna Sabalenka — Women’s world number four —, won’t be allowed in the competition. Medvedev is from Russia, Sabalenka is from Belarus.

Those who disagreed with the sanction called it a number of negative things — discrimination and overgeneralization being two of them.

They defend their position by saying that the players have nothing to do with the war, that the measure would set a dangerous precedent, and that politics should not dictate what happens in sports.

I consider the Wimbledon decision justified, and I will briefly explain why.

Why The Decision Is Not an Overgeneralization

  • Overgeneralization is a cognitive distortion, a flaw in one’s thinking. It means to turn an isolated instance or event into a rule that describes the entire context.
  • In this case, it would mean thinking that since some Russians are capable of despicable acts, then all Russians are capable of those behaviors. “All Russians are bad people. Let’s ban them all.”
  • But the Wimbledon decision did not come as a result of faulty reasoning. Most of us do not think all Russians resemble Putin and his despicable crowd.
  • The sanction is not a direct consequence of how the Tournament’s officials and others think about the Russian tennis players themselves.
  • The sanction is a message, not the result of irrational thinking.

Why Discrimination is a/the Solution in this Case

  • Yes, Wimbledon’s ban on Russian and Belarusian players is discrimination based on nationality.
  • We are taught that discrimination is a bad thing. But that is not automatically true. If you ban adults from children’s games, is it a negative thing? If you ban pro-players from amateur competitions, are you the bad guy? No, because the reasoning behind the discrimination makes the act justified.
  • The same happens with this ban. The reason behind it is to send a message of deep disapproval regarding the atrocities happening in Ukraine at the hands of Russian perpetrators.
  • It is also a message sent to the Russian and Belarusian people: They are the ones who can do something about their regime. Many of them are not able to see the reality of the current events because the propaganda restricts their access to independent media. They need to be reached otherwise.
  • Reached, not punished. I think this is where the misunderstanding lies. The sanctions against Russian and Belarusian individuals with no ties to their regimes are not a form of punishment. They are a form of communication. “We don’t play with people from aggressive — read terrorist — countries. Fix your country first, hang out with us later”. And I fully support that message.

Thank you for reading.

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This article was originally published on Medium on April 25, 2022.

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