Calling her a “singular champion,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) honored tennis star Venus Williams for her principled stand after an Israeli player was excluded from participating in a Dubai tennis tournament earlier this year.
In February 2009, the United Arab Emirates refused a visa to Shahar Peer, 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 principled stand, Ms. Williams received the ADL Americanism Award during a ceremony at the League’s national headquarters in Manhattan.
“What Venus Williams did in Dubai must be acknowledged and celebrated,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, in presenting the award. “When Shahar Peer 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 Ram’s visa, first delayed, was granted.
“The world knows that Venus is a singles champion; we want the world to know that she is also a singular champion.”
'Every player deserves an opportunity to compete'
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,” she 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 Peer, 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 Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.