Anyone for tennis, wouldn’t that be nice?: The contract law implications of the UAE’s decision to deny a visa to an Israeli tennis player

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Whether you are a fan of tennis (like me) or not, you might have been following the recent mess in the United Arab Emirates.   Basically, at the last second, Israeli tennis player Shahar Peer  was denied a visa to the Gulf state, meaning that she would be prevented from playing in the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships.  

The tournament’s organizers supported the decision to deny Peer a visa, saying local tennis fans would have boycotted the championships if she had been allowed to compete. Peer’s presence would have antagonized fans who had watched recent television coverage of Israeli attacks on Gaza, tournament director Salah Tahlak said.

The incident led to the Women’s Tennis Association  (WTA)  fining the tournament, the Wall Street Journal’s European edition  withdrawing its sponsorship of the tournament, and Andy Roddick  pulling out of the men’s tournament in Dubai in protest.   It also drew the ire  of Representative Anthony Weiner, who proclaimed that  ”Ms. Shahar Peer is a victim of politics  over sportsmanship.”   Well, considering that the UAE  subsequently  gave a visa to Israeli tennis player Andy Ram  to play in the men’s tournament in Dubai, I would argue that she was the  victim of something else as well.

In today’s Tennis Mailbag, Jon Wertheim raises an interesting question that I wonder if any FLP readers who are  contracts/sports law  experts can answer.   In the Mailbag, he was asked, “Jon, on the Peer/UAE issue, does Shahar have any recourse to demand the WTA give her some cut of “expected earnings” or at least ranking points?” and responded:

As it turned out, the WTA shrewdly pre-empted this and awarded Peer 139 rankings point and $44,250 (the average prize money she earned per tournament last year). Still, this would be a great topic for a law review article. Would Peer have otherwise had any remedy to recover lost earnings?

Does anyone know?

-Colin Miller

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