Can Roger Federer Beat Greta?

How much more is there to say in praise of Swiss icon Roger Federer? Biggest winner in tennis history with 20 Grand Slam titles; Olympic medallist and Davis Cup victor; often called the greatest player of all time (GOAT); devoted father and husband; elegant on and off the court and one the most admired athletes in the world. At 38 years-old he continues to amaze with two come-from-behind victories in the recent Australian Open at the twilight of his career.

And yet, his Swiss perfection has been called into question. His sponsorship deal with Credit Suisse, which has considerable loans to fossil-fuel industries, has been challenged by Swiss activists who held protest “tennis matches” inside Credit Suisse branches around Switzerland.

Environmental leader Greta Thunberg retweeted this post from 350org.Europe:

“Since 2016@CreditSuisse has provided $57 BILLION to companies looking for new fossil fuel deposits – something that is utterly incompatible with #ClimateAction @RogerFederer do you endorse this?”

“I appreciate reminders of my responsibility as a private individual, as an athlete and as an entrepreneur, and I’m committed to using this privileged position to dialogue on important issues with my sponsors,” Federer responded in justifying his support of Credit Suisse. “I take the impacts and threat of climate change very seriously, particularly as my family and I arrive in Australia amidst devastation from the bush fires,” he said in a statement when he landed in Melbourne for the Australian Open. He participated in a charity event Rally for Relief with other top players before the beginning of the tournament.

What are the responsibilities of top athletes and other public figures towards climate change or other political issues? We know the American football star Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed from playing in the National Football League and lost sponsors because he knelt on the field during the playing of the national anthem. We know that conservative television host Laura Ingraham shamelessly rebuked basketball star LeBron James for making political comments. She said: “It’s always unwise to seek political advice from someone who gets paid $100 million a year to bounce a ball. Keep the political comments to yourselves…Shut up and dribble.”

“Shut up and dribble”? As if we should say to Federer “Keep serving, keep winning, and keep sponsors like Credit Suisse and Mercedes Benz.” Do athletes have the right to privacy in their political views and sponsorships? Do we the fans have a right to worship them when they are on the court and winning and then criticize them for what they do off the court?

The MeToo movement is instructive here. We have more information today about what goes on behind the scenes. The public has become less tolerant of undignified behavior. The line between the public and private has become less rigid. And we expect more from public figures and those in positions of power.

Should this include sponsors as well? Federer said: “I appreciate reminders of my responsibility as a private individual, as an athlete and as an entrepreneur, and I’m committed to using this privileged position to dialogue on important issues with my sponsors.” He has a “privileged position.” How should he use it? Should every athlete or person in a privileged position question what sponsors do or take political positions like LeBron James about racism? Several important basketball players wound up playing in Switzerland because they were blackballed from playing in the United States for their political positions. How much individual freedom do public figures have?

To return to Roger: We know the Roger Federer Foundation engages in education programs for children living in poverty in Africa and Switzerland. But what about his sponsors like Credit Suisse, Mercedes Benz or the Japanese apparel company that dresses him? Roger said he will “dialogue on important issues with my sponsors.” Good. But what will be the results of that dialogue? We hope it will be more successful than his disappointing semi-final loss to Novak Djokovic in Australia.

More articles by:

Daniel Warner is the author of An Ethic of Responsibility in International Relations. (Lynne Rienner). He lives in Geneva.

April 08, 2020
Melvin Goodman
The Impact of COVID-19 on the Body Politic
Eve Ottenberg
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Vijay Prashad, Du Xiaojun – Weiyan Zhu
How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic
Bill Quigley
Seven Disturbing Facts About COVID-19 in Louisiana
Joyce Nelson
BlackRock Takes Command
Geoff Dutton
Coronavirus as Metaphor: It’s Not Peanuts
Richard Moser
From Strike Wave to General Strike
Gary Leupp
Could COVID-19 Kill Capitalism?
Thomas Klikauer – Nadine Campbell
Corona, Capital and Class in Germany
Tom Crofton
Aspirational vs Pragmatic: Why My Radicalness is Getting More Radical
Steve Kelly
Montana Ballot Access Decision Suppresses Green Party Voters
Jacob Hornberger
Muhammad Ali’s Fight Against the Pentagon
Phil Mattera
The Rap Sheets of the Big Ventilator Producers
Manuel García, Jr.
Why Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19?
Rick Baum
When “Moderate” Democrats Lead the Ticket and Win, Down-Ballot Candidates Soon Suffer Losses
Jake Johnston
Tens of Millions Will Be Pushed into Poverty Amid COVID-Induced Recession
Kim C. Domenico
Healthy and Unhealthy Fear in the Age of Coronavirus
John W. Whitehead
Draconian Lockdown Powers and Civil Liberties
Binoy Kampmark
University Bailouts, Funding and Coronavirus
Luke Ruediger
BLM Timber Sale Increases Fire Risk, Reduces Climate Resilience and Harms Recreation
John Kendall Hawkins
Slavoj Žižek’s Virulent Polemic Against Covid-19, and Stuff!
Nyla Ali Khan
Finding Meaning and Purpose in Adversity
April 07, 2020
Joel McCleary – Mark Medish
Paradigm Shift by Pandemic
Matt Smith
Amazon Retaliation: Workers Striking Back
Kenneth Surin
What The President Said (About The Plague)
Patrick Cockburn
The Chaotic Government Response to COVID-19 Resembles the Failures of 1914
Marshall Auerback
The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Opened the Curtains on the World’s Next Economic Model
Vijay Prashad, Paola Estrada, Ana Maldonado, and Zoe PC
Trump Sends Gun Boats to Venezuela While the World Partners to Fight a Deadly Pandemic
Jeremy Lent
Coronavirus Spells the End of the Neoliberal Era. What’s Next?
Dean Baker
The Big Hit: COVID-19 and the Economy
Nino Pagliccia
A Simple Democratic Transition Framework for Venezuela: End All “Sanctions”
Colin Todhunter
Locked Down and Locking in the New Global Order
Robert Fisk
Biden Says He ‘Doesn’t Have Enough Information’ on Iran to Have a Vew. How Odd, He Negotiated the Nuclear Deal
Wim Laven
GOP’s Achievement is Now on Display
Binoy Kampmark
Boastful Pay Cuts: the Coronavirus Incentive
Dave Lindorff
It’s Spring and I’ve Turned 71 in a Pandemic-Induced Recession
Steve Brown
FLASH! Trump Just Endorsed Bernie’s Medicare-For-All Health Plan
Marc Haggerty
Class and COVID-19: Those Who Can and Those Who Can’t
Manuel García, Jr.
A Reply to Jeffrey St. Clair’s “Strange Things Happening Every Day”
George Wuerthner
How Fuel Breaks Fuel Fires
Marshall Sahlins
Election 2020
April 06, 2020
Richard D. Wolff
COVID-19 and the Failures of Capitalism
W. T. Whitney
Donald Trump, Capitalism, and Letting Them Die
Cesar Chelala
Cuba’s Promising Approach to Cancer
David A. Schultz
Camus and Kübler-Ross in a Time of COVID-19 and Trump