Amnesty International has urged Cameron Norrie and other prominent players who will take part in the Diriyah Tennis Cup in Saudi Arabia to use their platforms to speak out against their human rights abuses.
“Everyone who plays in Diriyah will surely realize that this tennis tournament is yet another example of Saudi Arabia trying to whitewash its bloody human rights record,” Amnesty International said in a statement.
“With Saudi Arabia currently spending considerable amounts of money on everything from golf and Grand Prix to boxing and soccer, it is really important that major sports figures use their high profiles to speak out about human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia.” .
Following the LIV golf tour and the growing presence of Saudi-backed promoters in other major sports, the Diriyah Tennis Cup exhibition tournament represents Saudi Arabia’s latest attempt to break into the world of professional tennis. There has been interest from the country in hosting an officially sanctioned Women’s Tennis Association event, which the WTA has yet to hold.
A host of current and former top players have already committed to the lucrative showcase in December during the short off-season, including the British number 1. norie, Daniil Medvedev from Russia, Alexander Zverev from Germany, Stan Wawrinka from Switzerland, Dominic Thiem from Austria and Andrey Rublev from Russia. The inaugural edition was held in December 2019, in which Medvedev and Wawrinka also participated.
In a statement, Norrie said he would not comment on any political issues upon arrival in Saudi Arabia and would attend the Diriyah Tennis Cup to prepare for the Australian Open: “I am not a politician and I don’t.” I feel it’s right for me to get involved in individual government politics,” Norrie said.
“My job is to be a professional tennis player and this event in Arabia allows me to train with some of the best players in the world and potentially win the Australian Open.”
Felix Jakens of Amnesty International UK suggested that Norrie and others could use their presence in Saudi Arabia to show solidarity with Salma al-Shehab, the Leeds University student jailed for 34 years there for using Twitter.
“We were never going to tell the likes of Cameron Norrie where they should or shouldn’t play tennis, but by appearing in Diriyah, Cameron should realize that he is indeed being deliberately hired to participate in the latest Saudi sports laundering spree,” Jakens said. . .
“Cameron has a great platform and genuine influence, and he should use this to show solidarity with people like Salma al-Shehab who are being cruelly persecuted in Saudi Arabia. What Saudi Arabia seems to be looking for with these competitions is a high-profile, smiling sports star who will carefully avoid talking about human rights – Cameron should speak up.”
Appearance fees of up to seven figures have been offered to some of the top tennis players since the inaugural event in 2019, but not all have entertained them. Matt Gentry, Andy Murray’s agent, revealed earlier this year that he had turned down an offer to compete in the 2019 edition, which Murray echoed at Wimbledon.
“I know several of the other guys on tour have been offered to play there. I don’t think the field of players that left was what they expected. Many of the top players and biggest names turned him down. And I personally wouldn’t go play there,” Murray said.
BSG Sports Group, the organizers’ media team, has been contacted for comment.