Why Climate Protesters Are Focusing on Tennis – best news

  • September 9, 2023

The choice of this sport may seem curious: the National Football League and National Basketball League dominate American sports in attendance and viewership, while soccer far surpasses tennis in its global popularity. On a practical level, it is simply easier to protest at a tennis match, thanks to tennis’s inferior security and the courts’ short walls—from violent attacks to protests, it seems easier to get onto a professional tennis court than any other kind of professional playing field. Tennis might be the preferred target because the game requires silence: any shouts, any jeers from the stands disrupt the players’ concentration and prevent play. Just one person needs to scream, and thousands notice—including the protagonists on court.

Tennis also garners many high-level sponsorships and is popular with the upper class—the elites that climate protesters seek most to target. Toward the end of his career, Federer released a statement after Twitter users, joined by Greta Thunberg, called for him to end his sponsorship with Credit Suisse, the Swiss bank that has loaned tens of billions of dollars to the fossil fuel companies. These sponsorships help players pay for commercial but also private flights across continents in a global schedule that lasts nearly the entire year. Last January, Tennis Australia suddenly canceled a sponsorship with Santos, an oil and gas company, due to environmentalists’ outrage. This summer, celebrities, including actress Emma Thompson, called for Wimbledon to cancel its deal with Barclays because the bank has provided hundreds of billions of dollars to the fossil fuel industry since the 2015 Paris Accords. Wimbledon’s Center Court displays a Royal Box where celebrities and European royals watch their tennis; the U.S. Open calls its VIP seating in Arthur Ashe the President’s Box, and this year hosted the former president, Barack Obama, who sat with Michelle Obama courtside. Tennis began as the sport of the royals, and, protesters recognize, it is the few with access to power who can halt the annihilation of vulnerable ecosystems, species, and people.

Is interrupting the leisure of the royals and the masses, a tennis match—in my eyes, the most poetic of all sports—the most effective way to half the advances of climate change, which feeds on quarterly reports and the hands of politicians, quick to share their routing numbers with lobbyists? After a climate protest in Washington D.C. last month, during which activists wearing “END FOSSIL FUELS” shirts threw oversized tennis balls onto the court, Taylor Fritz, the young American who went on to lose the match, said that he didn’t “understand how people are going to get behind a cause when you’re ruining everyone else’s good time … I jokingly said, ‘Honestly, this makes me want to go fly on jets more.’” During the protest on Thursday, a commentator on ESPN speculated whether the protesting fans drank too much in the luxury suites, while a different reporter began her on-court interview with the winner by referencing the “99.99 percent that behaved themselves” during the match. As the NYPD led the man who glued himself to the floor out from the arena, fans jeered at him, cursed at him, screamed in his face. Arousing fury, but at the protesters themselves and not the oil barons: I wonder if this can truly be called a strategy for success. 

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