ADL honors Venus Williams for standing up against inequality

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has honored tennis star Venus Williams for her "principled stand" after Shahar Pe'er was excluded from participating in a Dubai tennis tournament earlier this year. In February 2009, the United Arab Emirates refused a visa to Pe'er, preventing her from participating in the Dubai Tennis Championship. Williams publicly spoke out against the decision and called for equal treatment for all players. In recognition of her comments Williams received the ADL Americanism Award during a ceremony at the League's national headquarters in Manhattan on Wednesday. "What Venus Williams did in Dubai must be acknowledged and celebrated," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director, in presenting the award. "When Shahar Pe'er was denied a visa to compete in the tournament, Venus knew that it was wrong and she knew that someone had to say so. And she did. "Words have consequences, but not always for the good. However, Venus' words were for the good. They were supportive, they put the Dubai Tennis Championship on notice and, while it was too late for Shahar to compete, Andy Rom's visa, first delayed, was granted." In accepting the award, Williams spoke of the importance of treating all people equally and speaking out against injustice. "I feel like I did the minimum, just to speak and to say something," Williams said. "It shows that whatever little things you can do to make a difference really will help. I want to thank Shahar for her courage, and I share this award with her." Williams said that every player deserves an opportunity to compete, and that while she was disappointed in Dubai's decision to exclude Pe'er, she doesn't think it will happen again. "If it does, I wouldn't be happy with any player playing the event. We don't want to be a part of something that's not equal." The ADL Americanism Award is presented to an individual or institution for embracing America's democratic values and fundamental commitment to equality and fair treatment for all. Presented to Williams was a work of traditional Jewish paper cut art containing the phrase, "Love Thy Neighbor as Thy Self," inscribed in six languages. Each piece is intricately cut from a single piece of paper, symbolizing that we are all cut from the same cloth. The ceremony was held a few days before the start of the US Open which gets underway at Flushing Meadows on Sunday. Israel will have two representatives in the main draws of the singles tournaments in New York. Dudi Sela (35) will face American Kevin Kim (100) in the first round of the men's, with Shaher Pe'er (63) to play Agnes Szavay (33) in the women's.