There was controversy at the Western & Southern Open near Cincinnati when a woman wearing a Ukrainian flag was thrown out, per a report from Local 12 WKRC-TV. The fan says that she was forced to leave because the flag bothered the Russian players on the court.
The woman is an American who hails from Uzbekistan, and she was watching a women's singles qualifying match between Anna Kalinskaya and Anastasia Potapova when an umpire asked her to take off the flag.
When she refused to remove the Ukrainian flag, the fan was told that the police would be called if she didn't leave. She summed up her conversation with the umpire in an interview with WKRC-TV.
"'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.'"
The Western & Southern Open released a statement to ESPN through a spokesperson, and it says the woman was asked to leave because the flag exceeded size restrictions.
"Per the Western & Southern Open's bag policy, as stated on the tournament's website, flags or banners larger than 18 x 18 are prohibited," the spokesperson told ESPN. Therefore, the patron was asked to remove the flag from the grounds and after doing so was allowed to remain at the tournament. Any inquiries about the chair umpire should be directed to the WTA Tour."
Ukraine is currently at war with Russia, and this incident drew a strong reaction from former Ukrainian tennis player Alex Dolgopolov. He took to Twitter and showed support for the fan before asking for "respect" for his home country.
"Our country is drowning in blood and barbaric violence, no russian will bully a silent supporter wearing a Ukraine flag!" Dolgopolov tweeted. "Have some respect."
The WTA has not yet released a statement on the incident.