CEO, Tennis Canada:

Dear Mr. Downey:

Among the values claimed by Tennis Canada are world leadership, integrity and accountability. In that context I urge the total banning of Russian and Belarusian tennis players from the Rogers Cup – regardless of these players participating under a neutral flag or not.


It is significant to note that post-apartheid South African government officials overwhelmingly stated that sanctions regarding sports were most effective in pressuring and helping to ultimately dismantle apartheid in their country. Not diamonds or uranium. Not tourism. Sports.


Sports, politics and international relations are intrinsically linked – one can only imagine the deflating effect on Nazi Germany had the 1936 Berlin Olympics been boycotted. In this regard, significant national and international bodies have already taken major steps in condemning Russia’s war on Ukraine.


Canada’s House of Commons has officially declared Russia’s actions in Ukraine a genocide. The International Criminal Court is investigating and confirming that the Russian military is committing war crimes (rape, including rape of infants and the elderly, looting, theft and murder) in Ukraine on a daily basis.  Over 6 million displaced persons have left Ukraine. There are millions of internally displaced persons. Thousands have been killed, among them almost 300 children.


I urge you, Mr. Downey, to follow the lead of our Canadian government in terms of sanctions and ban Russian and Belarusian tennis players from the Rogers Cup.


Anything short of a full ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players is simply a justification for platitudes and a total lack of regard for the millions displaced and the thousands killed in Ukraine. The bombing of museums, hospitals, schools, bread lines, refugee corridors, in short, the deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure cannot be tolerated, or appeased, in any way shape or form.


I certainly don’t need to inundate you with – the now infamous – images of dead civilians in Bucha or an obliterated Mariupol. These types of scenes can be viewed “24/7” on any major news network. The Russian Federation’s state-sponsored theft of food supplies has been confirmed by the UN and the Red Cross, as well as independent satellite imaging firms.


Canada’s CRTC has banned “Russia Today” television broadcasts from Canadian airwaves due to aggressive and hostile disinformation and propaganda by RT and Russian authorities. This is a good precedent for Tennis Canada to ban Russian and Belarusian tennis players until such time that Russia ends its genocidal war against Ukraine.


In addition, a legal report, researched and signed by over 30 leading legal scholars and genocide experts, accuses the Russian Federation of “violating several articles of the United Nations

Genocide Convention” including “mass killings of civilians, forced deportations and dehumanizing anti-Ukrainian rhetoric used by Russian officials”. The report, including overwhelming evidence, has been compiled by the New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy and the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.  I’m asking you, Mr. Downey, not to trivialize or minimize these efforts to stop Russia’s genocidal war with vague, pseudo discussions of “unfairness” to athletes.


It is important to be on the right side of history. The Russian Federation is threatening the entire world by its actions. These actions include two ICBM tests within the last month and interference with world food supplies, actions that threaten all of us on a global scale.  Do not embolden and empower the Russian Federation and its blatantly racist policies and actions. We ask you, Mr. Downey, to make a bold statement and ban Russian and Belarusian tennis players from the Rogers Cup.


Garry Kasparov, the Russian-born chess master, critic of the Kremlin and vocal opponent of the current war, suggests that each player from Russia and Belarus sign an open letter condemning Russia’s war on Ukraine before being allowed to participate under a neutral flag. No signed declaration means no participation. This is viable consideration and would make for a powerful statement against Russia’s war on Ukraine, as well as the Kremlin’s policies.


John Samijlo

League of Ukrainian Canadians