Sinai Says: Roddick steps up for Pe'er

While his women counterparts uttered few words of solidarity but still played in Dubai, Roddick reminded us sports is much more than just hitting a ball.

roddick focused 248.88 (photo credit: AP)
roddick focused 248.88
(photo credit: AP)
I hate to agree with Ehud Olmert, I really do, but the Prime Minister couldn't have been more right when he praised Andy Roddick for choosing to boycott the Dubai Tennis Championships in protest of Shahar Pe'er's visa denial. "It warmed my heart to see that the defending Dubai champion, Andy Roddick, decided to boycott the tournament," Olmert said at the start of Sunday's cabinet meeting, keeping up with his tradition of addressing happenings from the world of sports at government gatherings. While his women counterparts, at the very most, uttered a few words of solidarity with Pe'er but nevertheless played on in Dubai last week as if nothing had happened, Roddick reminded us all that sports are about much more than just hitting, kicking or shooting a ball. The 26-year-old, No. 6 in the world, took home a $300,000 winners check from his visit to the UAE last year, but understood that there is far more than money at stake this time around. He decided that the only proper course of action when a fellow player is discriminately turned away is to stay at home as well. "I really didn't agree with what went on over there. I don't know if it's the best thing to mix politics and sports, and that was probably a big part of it," said Roddick, whose conscience wouldn't allow him to play in Dubai. "There were a lot of factors why I should probably go, and obviously having played well there doesn't make it any easier," added Roddick. "I just don't feel like there's a need for that in a sporting event. I don't think you make political statements through sports." No one would have blamed Roddick had he taken a leaf out of Venus Williams' book, who spoke and spoke about how wrong it was to reject Pe'er's visa application, but when confronted with the calls to boycott the tournament, started talking about "the bigger picture" and how it's important not to let down the sponsors. There's no doubt that had a black player been barred from taking part at a tournament based on race, Williams, who was the eventual winner in Dubai last week, would have rightfully boycotted the event, sponsors or no sponsors. Unlike Roddick, Williams, who sits on the WTA Tour Players' Council and is perhaps more socially conscience than any other player on Tour, failed to grasp that a stand must be taken against injustice and discrimination. Roddick has set an example to us all by sacrificing personal gain for a higher value and he deserves all the praise in the world for showing once more that sports maintain their status as a platform for the promotion of positive social change. Being a global sporting icon doesn't just give you the right to a life of riches, but also comes with the responsibility of acting as a role model to the young and old alike. Most athletes conveniently cast this notion aside, but thankfully there are still true sporting heroes likes Roddick around, who understand their role in the world and use their celebrity not just for their own benefit, but for the greater good.