Tennis fan wearing Ukranian flag forced to leave event after complaints from Russian player

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A tennis fan wearing a Ukranian flag and a floral wreath crown was asked to leave the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati after a Russian player complained about her presence at the match.

The fan, who is only identified as “Lola” was reportedly sitting in the stands, quietly watching a match between Russia’s Anna Kalinskaya and Anastasia Potapova when one of the players complained to umpire Morgane Lane about the fan. This led to an interaction between the umpire and Lola, in which the umpire can be heard saying “it’s not nice” to wear the Ukranian flag, to which the fan responds “it’s not nice to invade a country.”

It’s unclear what the umpire thought was “not nice” about a fan wearing a nation’s flag and quietly sitting out of the immediate sight lines of players — but the incident escalated from there. The players kept competing, but shortly following, Lola was approached by security and asked to leave the event, as she explained to Local 12 in Cincinnati:

“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.”

Lola was escorted out of the stands and into the parking lot, where she was told she needed to leave her flag, citing a rarely-enforced rule about bringing a flag larger than 18×18 into the event. Regardless of whether she was in breach of the rules by the letter of the law, it’s clear she was targeted specifically because it was a Ukranian flag, and specifically because a Russian player complained.

“This is not Russia, this is United States of America,” the fan told Local 12.

Tennis has been struggling with how to navigate Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Wimbledon banned Russian and Belarusian players outright, while other events have allowed players to compete but not identify as Russian players. The fan being removed in Cincinnati is the first recorded incident where a fan’s passive protest has prompted a reaction from a tournament.

The WTA has not released a statement regarding the incident at this time.

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