|February 19, 2009|
|'Brand Dubai' Spoiled by Charge of Anti-Semitism|
|By Kevin McCauley|
|The millions of dollars that Dubai has spent for PR cannot overcome the stench of anti-semitism arising from the ban of Israel’s Shahar Peer from Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships. |
The 48th ranked female player in the world was refused a visa from the United Arab Emirates, of which Dubai is part, apparently because she is Jewish and traveling with an Israeli passport. The UAE has not officially explained why Peer was barred from the desert paradise.
Peer did play in Qatar, another Gulf State, in `08, raising the hope that Dubai would let her in for the prestigious tourney. Dubai, after all, is promoting itself as a progressive and free-wheeling spot in a tough corner of the world. That positioning now rings false.
The Barclays Dubai Tennis Championship is presented under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He is the guy who inked Johnson, Madigan, Peck, Bolland & Stewart to a two-year $25K a-month pact to promote “Brand Dubai,” which now has been soiled by the snubbing of Peer.
Dubai’s Executive Office worked with Levick Strategic Communications through Feb. `07 under a $1.2M pact. Levick was replaced by DLA Piper, which currently reps the Dubai entity under a 10-month contract worth nearly $500K. Piper is where former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell hangs his hat. He is President Obama's special envoy to the Middle East. He should swing by the tennis stadium and chat with the Sheikh about the sordid Peer situation.
Mark Saylor, a former crisis pro at Sitrick Communications, also reps Dubai, charging $165 to $525 an hour based on services. That pact is capped at $300K a-year.
Barclays must be taken to task for its ties with Dubai. The British bank responded in `07 to charges that it had links to the slave trade during the 18th century. Those allegations arose after Barclays agreed to put its name on the future Brooklyn home of the National Basketball Association Nets. Barclays forcefully denied the slave ties. It should now rebuke Dubai. It is hardly in Barclays good image to be connected to anti-semitism.
Peer emerges smelling like a rose from the sad event. She refused calls to call off the event, saying that she did not want other players hurt by Dubai’s actions against her.
The Tennis Channel also wins kudos. It is not televising this week's championship because of Peer’s banning. Ken Solomon, CEO of the network, said the decision was a no-brainer. It was based on “what is right or wrong.”
Sports is supposed to transcend politics, religion and race. Dubai should be booted from the circuit until it gets it act together. That prognosis is not good. The latest bulletin from that cultural hub: Dubai is banning Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition because it has Israeli model Bar Rafaeli on the cover. Go figure. My guess is that 99.5 percent of SI readers either don't know or care where Bar is from.
(Image via tenniswta.blogspot.com)
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