THE worlds of tennis and climate change have recently collided on and off the courts.

Climate activist campaigners are pressuring the former world tennis No.1 to drop his association with Credit Suisse, which has been accused of investing more than 45 billion pounds in companies linked to the oil, gas and coal sectors since 2016.

A dozen Swiss activists appeared in court recently after refusing to pay fines for playing tennis inside branches of the Credit Suisse bank in November of 2018, in Lausanne and Geneva.

The idea was to protest Swiss tennis player Roger Federer’s links with the banking giant, which supports the fossil fuel industry.

The climate change activists also held up banners reading: “Credit Suisse is destroying the planet. Roger, do you support them?” Lawyers for the activists, mostly students, said they were appealing the fine of £17,000 (21,600 Swiss francs / $AU32,000) on the basis they were acting more as whistleblowers for the climate emergency. Protesters with signs gathered outside the courtroom in Lausanne, and the hashtag #RogerWakeUpNow has been trending on Twitter.

“It is not enough to just go out on the street or to vote, we must disturb a little bit so people stop acting like nothing is happening,” Paul Castelain, one of the activists, opined outside the court in Lausanne at the time of the trial.

Thunberg, 17, was among nearly 700 accounts to retweet a post from climate activist group 350.org Europe. “Since 2016 @CreditSuisse has provided $57 BILLION to companies looking for new fossil fuel deposits – something that is utterly incompatible with

#ClimateAction,” the tweet reads. “@RogerFederer do you endorse this? #RogerWakeUpNow.”

Thunberg’s willingness to chastise world leaders and others in her sights for the cause of climate change is gaining notoriety. Federer, 38, is in Melbourne preparing for the Australian Open. He responded with a diplomatic, conciliatory statement, without directly addressing his relationship with 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 bushfires,” read Federer’s statement, sent to Reuters.

“As the father of four young children and a fervent supporter of universal education, I have a great deal of respect and admiration for the youth climate movement, and I am grateful to young climate activists for pushing us all to examine our behaviours and act on innovative solutions. We owe it to them and ourselves to listen.

“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, did not however, say anything specific about the future of his arrangement with Credit Suisse, which is believed to have paid him 5.5 million pounds to be its global brand ambassador. The bank has said that it is updating its “climate strategy” and will no longer put money into coal-fired power stations.

The reaction to Federer’s position was mixed. The Neue Zurcher Zeitung, an influential right-leaning newspaper in Switzerland, praised Federer for striking “precisely the right tone, even though the climate activists will smother it with ever more demands and pressure”.

However, Climate Strike Switzerland, the national arm of Miss Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, urged Federer to act on his words. “We hope he will call on Credit Suisse to get rid of all of its investments in fossil fuels with immediate effect and to withdraw its lawsuit against [the] brave climate activists,” it said.

Credit Suisse recently stated it is “seeking to align its loan portfolios with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and has recently announced in the context of its global climate strategy that it will no longer invest in new coal-fired power plants”.

Federer, for his part, along with Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and a number of other players, were committed to raise funds to help tackle the devastating fires in Australia that have resulted in the deaths of at least 28 people, destroyed homes and devastated habitats and wildlife.

He is not the first famous person to have been irritated by Thunberg on social media.

In September she responded to criticism from President Macron of France by tweeting a link to a comedy video titled: “The Greta Thunberg helpline: for adults angry at a child.”

Two months later, after President Bolsonaro of Brazil referred to her as a pirralha, or “little brat”, she briefly adopted the word in the biography section of her Twitter page.

And who will ever forget the chastisement of the adult world as she addressed the United Nations?

Is Greta Thunberg the messiah, or is she merely the voice of our moral conscience that we have chosen to ignore?

Do all athletes have a role to review their relationships, both personal and sporting, as part of their social conscience and that of others? What are the responsibilities and expectations and who decides the morality?

Ludo Aequitas – Equality Through Sport – would like to hear your views

 

Image via Daily Express

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