The Wimbledon Ban
The All England Lawn Tennis Club (AELTC), where Wimbledon takes place, recently announced that players from the two nations would not be eligible for the grand slam. On the men’s side, that includes World Number 2, Daniil Medvedev, and World Number 8, Andrey Rublev. Although the Russian and Belarussian players have been understandably silent on the issue, reactions from other players have been mixed. Such bans in other sports have been less controversial – often, these athletes compete as teams representing their countries – in tennis, however, things are different to the origin of the modern tours. As Billie Jean King, one of the founders of the WTA tour, put it, “One of the guiding principles of the founding of the WTA was that any girl in the world, if she was good enough, would have a place to compete. I stood by that in 1973, and I stand by that today. I cannot support the banning of individual athletes from any tournament, simply because of their nationality. Tennis is stronger when we stand together, and our continued support of the Tennis Plays for Peace initiative, which provides meaningful financial support and resources to Ukraine, needs to be our focus”.
Despite opposition from icons like Martina Navratilova and Novak Djokovic, Ukrainian athletes strongly backed the move. And Ian Hewitt, Chairman of the AELTC, said the following, “We have very carefully considered the alternative measures that might be taken within the UK Government guidance. But given the high-profile environment of the Championships, the importance of not allowing the sport to be used to promote the Russian regime, and our broader concerns for public and player (including family) safety, we do not believe it is viable to proceed on any other basis.” It remains to be seen whether the AELTC will stand by its decision through the summer, but it does have Moscow’s attention, which may have been one of the desired effects.
Ten in a Row
Last week, Bayern Munich won its tenth consecutive Bundesliga title over their rivals, Borussia Dortmund. Before this run of utter dominance, no team had won the Bundesliga more than three times in a row. The title is Julian Nagelsmann’s first as Bayern coach but continues an era of dominance that has not been seen before in Germany.
There are still five games to play in the season, but now it is mathematically impossible for the team to relinquish their spot atop the Bundesliga standings. The team has lost only four league matches this season, to Eintracht Frankfurt, FC Augsburg, Borussia Monchengladbach and VfL Bochum, but they have been comfortably ahead of Dortmund at the top of the division all season. The 2021-22 championship is Bayern’s 32nd title in total, with FC Nurnberg way back in second, having won it on nine occasions. Dortmund have been champions eight times.
The Dream Team
Ever since they burst onto the scene with 1997’s Good Will Hunting, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck have been known for their storytelling savvy. They recently decided to turn their talents to the story of how Nike signed Michael Jordan to one of the most famed endorsement contracts in sports history. The movie will centre around former Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro and Nike co-founder Phil Knight. Damon will portray Vaccaro, and Affleck will play Knight. Affleck and Damon won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for “Good Will Hunting”, and the two collaborated on the screenplay for and starred in 2021’s “The Last Duel.” Affleck, who will direct the film, also won an Academy Award for Best Picture as a producer for “Argo.”
The movie will focus on Nike’s effort to sign Jordan in 1984 when Jordan was entering the NBA. Coming out of North Carolina, Jordan was the No. 3 overall pick of the 1984 NBA draft, and Vaccaro managed to do the impossible for what was, at the time, a minor shoe company and keep Jordan away from Adidas, Reebok, and Converse. By doing so, Vaccaro helped transform Nike, the relationship between an athlete and a brand, and the sneaker industry as a whole.
“Even though I never envisioned myself wearing the (Nike) shoe, the creativity that it provided to me and the education of what this is all about — what I wear on my feet and how it enhances my athletic ability — I’m happy with the choice,” Jordan said in 2004. In 2021, Yahoo! Finance reported that Jordan Brand, an offshoot of Nike, did 5 billion USD in sales and, in 2020, Forbes estimated that Nike has paid Jordan an estimated 1.3 billion USD since 1984.