Russian Daniil Medvedev, the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, may not be able to compete at this year’s Wimbledon Championships—one of tennis’ crown jewels—if he does not denounce Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine. During a meeting of the British Parliament on Tuesday, Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston said Russian and Belarusian athletes should provide “assurance” that they do not support Putin if they want to play at the All England Club. His comments come as the invasion in Ukraine enters its fourth week.
Forcing Russian and Belarusian tennis players to expressly condemn Putin would do little to put an end to the full-scale war. But the pressure of an international boycott on Russian and Belarusian athletes, on the other hand, could push a heavily sanctioned Russia deeper into isolation, says Daniel Lebowitz, executive director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society at Northeastern. At the very least, it would deprive Russia and Putin of what historically has been an important platform for projecting power and prestige, giving politicians the ability to connect with a broader audience through athletes competing under their national flag, he says.