A tennis fan who wrapped herself in a Ukrainian flag to attend a match between Russian players at the Cincinnati Open on Sunday was told by a chair umpire to leave the stands because the flag’s presence was not “nice,” and later told by a security guard to leave the tournament because the flag violated size rules.
“We had our flag, Ukrainian flag, not doing anything crazy, distracting players, but wrapped around, sitting there peacefully and quiet,” the fan named Lola told Local 12, describing her attendance at a qualifying match between Anna Kalinskaya and Anastasia Potapova. Lola, whose last name wasn’t given in the news article, said she was an American originally from Uzbekistan. Chair umpire Morgane Lara told her to put the flag away, and that confrontation was filmed:
Via Local 12, which asked Lola what the umpire said to her:
“’You’re not being nice. You need to put the flag away,’” she said. “The message I got was that it is agitating Russian players. I said, ‘I’m not putting it away.’ They kept playing for a minute or two. Then, they stopped the game again, and then the security guard came up to me and said, ‘Ma’am, I’m going to call the cops if you won’t leave.”
After leaving the stands of that particular match, Lola said she was confronted by security and told that her flag exceeded the maximum permitted size per tournament rules, 18 inches by 18 inches, and that she had to remove the flag or leave the premises. While I have not attended the Cincinnati Open, these flag rules are not generally enforced at any domestic tournament that I’ve attended, which tend to be full of flags.
Considering that Wimbledon chose to ban Russian and Belarusian players altogether, it’s a bit surreal to see a tennis official (and tournament security) tacking to the opposite extreme to seemingly protect the feelings of Russian players. When asked for comment, a spokesperson for the Cincinnati Open reiterated its policy on flag size, according to tennis writer Ben Rothenberg. The WTA Tour, which employs the umpire, failed to respond altogether.