Because the WTA expelled a spectator who showed a Ukrainian flag in Cincinnati

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Because the WTA expelled a spectator who showed a Ukrainian flag in Cincinnati

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The brief chat between Lola and the referee during the tournament. “He told me that he was encouraging the Russian players,” said the fan. Capture photos

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When Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the International Tennis Federation, the ATP and the WTA quickly took action that clarified their anti-war stance. But at the beginning of Open western and southernWTA1000 category tournament taking place this week in Cincinnati, the association that governs women’s tennis has been at the center of the controversy over a controversial decision in the context of that conflict. It is that a spectator who was watching a match between two Russian players, wrapped in a Ukrainian flag, was expelled from the stadium during a match because “it stirred the tennis players”.

The incident occurred during the clash of the last qualifying round between Anastasia Potapova Y Anna Kalinskaja, who play under a neutral flag as part of the sanctions imposed on their country for the invasion of Ukraine. During the first set, one of the players – no one could identify which one – pointed out to the referee morgane lara that there was a person on the podium with a Ukrainian flag. He was Lolaa racket sports fanatic who was born in Uzbekistan but became a naturalized American and sat silently in the grandstand, wearing the blue and yellow crest on her back and a winea typical Ukrainian flower crown, on the head.

Faced with a complaint from one of the players, the chair referee interrupted the game and approached Lola to ask her to put away the flag, telling her that it was not “nice” to show up at such a match with the Ukrainian coat of arms. Lola replied that what was not “beautiful” was invading a country and that she would not remove the flag. The game then resumed, but the incident did not end there.

“I wasn’t doing anything crazy or distracting the players. I had the flag around me and I was sitting quietly and calmly.”the viewer told later in an interview with the channel Local news 12.

“The message I got from the judge is that she was waving the Russian players. I told her I would not put the flag away. They kept playing for a minute or two and then a security guard came up to me and said if I didn’t go, I would call the police, “he continued.

Despite the fact that other people who were in the stands came to her defense, Lola had to leave the stadium. Although shortly after, walking around the club, the same security guard told him that if he didn’t hold the flag he would have to abandon the race. How come? Since banners larger than 18 x 18 inches (45 x 45 centimeters) are banned, a tournament spokesperson explained to the ABC.

Lola was escorted to the parking lot and had to leave her flag in the car to return to the tournament and continue watching tennis.

Lola was forced to keep her flag in order not to be expelled from the tournament.  Twitter photo @BenRothenberg

Lola was forced to keep her flag in order not to be expelled from the tournament. Twitter photo @BenRothenberg

The controversial episode did not take long to go viral on social networks, after the account @TrashTennis share a video of the brief exchange between Lola and Judge Lara. And the harsh criticisms did not take long to appear.

There were some users who also pointed out that it is not uncommon to see flags and banners larger than those allowed by the rules in the contest matches, but that no one has ever been asked to remove them, as happened with Lola.

And it wasn’t just tennis fans who expressed their disagreement with the tournament and the WTA. The organization Cincy4Ukrainea nonprofit charitable foundation created by Ukrainians living in Cincinnati, confirmed that it is consulting with a civil rights attorney about the possibility of Lola taking legal action against the contest for violating her first amendment rights .

The WTA did not respond to requests from various media – including the same TV channel that interviewed Lola – to comment on the referee’s decision to give rise to the player’s claim. Neither of them has issued, at least for now, a statement on the matter.

Source: Clarin

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