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    Brittney Griner’s Guilty Verdict Strengthens Supporters’ Resolve

    The W.N.B.A. star was sentenced to nine years in a Russian penal colony, but her supporters insist they will do “whatever we can to get her home.”Nothing about Thursday’s proceedings in a Russian courthouse, where the W.N.B.A. star Brittney Griner was being tried on drug smuggling charges, surprised experts familiar with Russia’s legal process. Griner was convicted and sentenced to a penal colony for nine years — just one year shy of the maximum sentence.Her conviction was thought to be a formality and a prerequisite for a prisoner swap that could lead to her return to the United States.“I think the negotiations will accelerate now that there’s finality to the alleged court process,” said Jonathan Franks, who has worked with the family of Trevor R. Reed, a former U.S. Marine who was returned to the United States in a prisoner swap with Russia in April. Reed was also sentenced to nine years of imprisonment after he was convicted of assault, a charge his family considered to be spurious and politically motivated.“One thing Americans need to realize is, we’re dealing with thugs,” Franks said. “The people who take our folks hostage or wrongfully detain them, it’s just state-sponsored kidnapping. They’re thugs. Sometimes, in order to get thugs’ attention, they only understand strength.”Last week, the U.S. State Department said it had made a “substantial offer” to the Russian government for Griner and Paul N. Whelan, an American who has been detained in Russia since 2018. Whelan was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 16 years in prison. But now that Griner’s trial is over, experts said even more patience would be required from those who support her. After U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken publicly said that the United States had offered Russia a deal, Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, told reporters that prisoner swaps were negotiated quietly.William Pomeranz, the acting director of the Kennan Institute and an expert on Russian law, said: “There’s no incentive for Russia to do any favors for the United States.”“I am not optimistic that the diplomatic deal will take place any time soon,” he said, pointing to Peskov’s statement and the poor relations between the two countries because of the war in Ukraine.Griner has been detained in Russia since Feb. 17 when Russian customs officials at an airport near Moscow said they had found hashish oil, a cannabis derivative, in a vape pen in her luggage. The U.S. State Department announced in May that it considered Griner to be “wrongfully detained,” which meant her case would be handled by the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. The State Department said it would work to secure her release, no matter how her trial ended.In both the United States and Russia, Griner’s teammates and coaches have offered their support. Members of her Russian team, UMMC Yekaterinburg, testified on Griner’s behalf during her trial.Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, left, said she was “feeling sad and feeling sick” after Griner was convicted on Thursday. Stewart had played in Russia with Griner for UMMC Yekaterinburg.Richard Ellis/UPI/ShutterstockIn the United States, several W.N.B.A. players who had also played in Russia coordinated a social media campaign on Wednesday, the day before her trial ended.Nneka Ogwumike, the president of the W.N.B.A. players’ union, posted a photograph on Instagram of herself playing for her Russian team, Dynamo Kursk.“Like me, she has great memories from her time playing and returned year after year to compete in Russia,” Ogwumike wrote. She added: “I am asking that in honor of all our great experiences competing in Russia and around the world, out of love and humanity, that you show her mercy and understanding. Please be kind to Brittney Griner.”Although the players’ appeals did not appear to affect the proceedings, they had value in showing solidarity with Griner and her UMMC Yekaterinburg teammates who spoke on her behalf, said Kimberly St. Julian-Varnon, a Russian historian who has consulted with the players’ union during Griner’s detention.“Brittney’s Russian teammates and her coach, those who testified on her behalf in Russia really put themselves at risk because Russia just recently passed even more stringent laws about cooperating with foreigners,” St. Julian-Varnon said. She said the W.N.B.A. players’ public statements were “giving them a nod and saying they appreciated what they did.”St. Julian-Varnon started advising the union shortly after Griner was detained. She said early on she told the players to expect a long process, that they should not expect Griner to be released before her trial and that even if her sentence were light, that would mean at least five years.Now that Griner has been convicted, St. Julian-Varnon is still urging caution.“This does not mean she’s going to be involved in a prisoner swap any time soon,” she said. “Just keep that in mind because this is still a process, but it’s the next step in the process. It could be weeks. It could be months. A lot of it depends on Russia.”The Plight of Brittney Griner in RussiaThe American basketball star has endured months in a Russian prison on charges of smuggling hashish oil into the country.The Ordeal, in Her Own Words: During her trial, Ms. Griner said she had been tossed into a bewildering legal system with little explanation of what she might do to try to defend herself. Who Is Viktor Bout?: The man who could be part of a prisoner swap to release Ms. Griner has been accused of supplying arms to Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and rebels in Rwanda.Hostage Diplomacy: In recent years, several Americans have been swept up by hostile governments looking to use them as bargaining chips. Brittney Griner might be one of them.The N.B.A.’s Low Profile: The league has been mostly quiet in the public campaign to free Ms. Griner, even though it founded and still partly owns the W.N.B.A. Here’s why.Terri Jackson, the executive director of the W.N.B.A. players’ union, said Griner’s conviction would not change how the players support her. For months, they spoke out publicly and made other demonstrations of support, such as wearing T-shirts with Griner’s initials and jersey number, 42.The Phoenix Mercury, Griner’s team since she was drafted No. 1 overall in 2013, held a rally for Griner on July 6. Fans held up signs and wore T-shirts and jerseys to show their support.Phoenix Mercury/Via Reuters“Just really feeling sad and feeling sick for Brittney and hoping that she gets home as soon as possible,” said Seattle Storm forward Breanna Stewart, a four-time All-Star who played with Griner in Russia. “Now that the trial is done and the sentencing happened, I know she’s got to be in a very emotional state and just want her to know that we’re still continuing to do whatever we can to get her home.”When asked if the N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. would change anything about their tactics, Mike Bass, an N.B.A. spokesman, said both leagues would continue to support the State Department, White House “and other allies in and outside government in the effort to get Brittney home as soon as possible.”The tense relationship between the United States and Russia has not eased in the months since Griner’s detention. She was jailed shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the United States has sent military equipment to Ukraine in its fight against Russia. On Monday, the White House said it would send $550 million in additional arms to Ukraine for the war.St. Julian-Varnon said that could hamper negotiations for Griner’s release, which was not a problem for Russia. “It only hurts the credibility of the Biden administration,” she said. “There’s no impetus for Russia to do anything immediately.”That stance most likely will not sit well with Griner’s supporters. Paris Hatcher is the executive director of Black Feminist Future, a social justice organization that created the #BringBrittneyHome hashtag campaign. She said her initial excitement over a possible prisoner swap for Griner dissipated after Thursday’s verdict.Hatcher said the organization would consider options to keep Griner’s case on the forefront of the minds of politicians.“Will that mean that we’ll be reaching back out to elected officials that we had been in conversation with about the critical nature of this case?” Hatcher said. “Oftentimes, you just don’t have enough information. Now, you have the information. Whatever was making you hesitate, it’s been six months.”Hatcher added: “Whatever swap that needs to happen, let it happen. Make it happen.” More

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    Biden Speaks to Brittney Griner’s Wife, Cherelle, About Russia

    President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris told Cherelle Griner they would pursue “every avenue” to bring her wife, Brittney Griner, home from Russia.President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris spoke on Wednesday with Cherelle Griner, the wife of the W.N.B.A. star Brittney Griner. Brittney Griner has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February, and her trial began Friday.During the call, Biden read a draft of a letter he planned to send to Brittney Griner.“The president offered his support to Cherelle and Brittney’s family, and he committed to ensuring they are provided with all possible assistance while his administration pursues every avenue to bring Brittney home,” according to a statement released by the White House.The U.S. State Department said in May that Brittney Griner had been “wrongfully detained.” It will work to secure her release regardless of the outcome of the trial.“I am grateful to the both of them for the time they spent with me and for the commitment they expressed to getting B.G. home,” Cherelle Griner said of Biden and Harris in a statement to The New York Times on Wednesday.Brittney Griner has been in custody in Russia since Feb. 17, accused by the Russian authorities of having a vape cartridge with hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. On Monday, Brittney Griner sent a handwritten letter to Biden pleading for his help.“I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner said in an excerpt from the letter shared by her representatives. She continued: “I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home.”Brittney Griner, left, with her wife, Cherelle Griner, in 2020. Brittney Griner has played for the Phoenix Mercury in the W.N.B.A. since 2013.Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty ImagesIn her statement, Cherelle Griner thanked her wife’s supporters.“While I will remain concerned and outspoken until she is back home, I am hopeful in knowing that the president read my wife’s letter and took the time to respond,” Cherelle Griner said. “I know B.G. will be able to find comfort in knowing she has not been forgotten.”Wednesday’s statement from the White House described Brittney Griner as “wrongfully detained in Russia under intolerable circumstances.”It also said that Biden had instructed his national security team to keep “regular contact” with Griner’s family and that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken and Jake Sullivan, Biden’s national security adviser, had spoken with Cherelle Griner recently.In the past several weeks, Cherelle Griner had publicly expressed frustration with Biden and his administration’s efforts to secure her wife’s release.On Tuesday, Cherelle Griner appeared on “CBS Mornings” and spoke about her disappointment that Brittney Griner’s family had not received a reply from the president to Brittney Griner’s letter.“I will not be quiet anymore,” Cherelle Griner said. “My wife is struggling, and we have to help her.”The women have been able to communicate with each other only through letters. In June, Cherelle Griner told The Associated Press that a scheduled call with Brittney Griner never got through to her because of a staffing issue at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. She said she had not spoken to her wife since the day she was detained.Experts said Brittney Griner’s trial was likely to end in a conviction. She faces up to 10 years in a penal colony if she is convicted.“There’s a bias mainly because the Russian judicial system says they really should not go to trial unless the defendant is going to be convicted,” said William Pomeranz, the acting director of the Kennan Institute and an expert on Russian law. “There’s no real idea or expectation that the defendant could be innocent. There’s no presumption of innocence, really.”One pathway to securing the release of an American detained abroad is a prisoner swap, which experts believe is the most likely scenario for Griner’s release.A Kremlin spokesman has denied that Brittney Griner’s imprisonment is politically motivated, but Russian media outlets have linked Griner’s case to that of Viktor Bout, a Russian arms dealer who is serving a 25-year federal-prison sentence.Trevor Reed, a former U.S. Marine who had been imprisoned in Russia on assault charges since August 2019, was released in a prisoner swap in April. Reed had been sentenced to nine years in prison in July 2020.In her statement Wednesday, Cherelle Griner asked for prayers for her family and the families of others wrongfully detained.“Our pain remains active until our loved ones are brought home,” she said. “Let’s continue to use our voices to speak the names of all the wrongfully detained Americans and support the administration as they do what it takes to bring them home today.”The U.S. State Department has warned Americans against traveling to Russia because of the war in Ukraine, the “potential for harassment against U.S. citizens by Russian government security officials” and “the singling out of U.S. citizens in Russia by Russian government security officials including for detention,” among other reasons.Griner was in Russia because she played for UMMC Yekaterinburg, a team known for being among the highest paying women’s basketball teams in the world. She makes more there than she does playing for the W.N.B.A.Griner has played for the W.N.B.A.’s Phoenix Mercury since the franchise drafted her first overall in 2013. She won a W.N.B.A. championship in 2014 and has won two gold medals with the U.S. women’s national basketball team.After Griner’s detention, those supporting her initially were advised not to draw too much attention to the situation in hopes that her detention would not be politicized. Russia has long had a frosty relationship with the United States, and it invaded Ukraine soon after Griner was detained.But when the U.S. State Department said in May that Griner had been wrongfully detained, that strategy changed. Cherelle Griner, W.N.B.A. officials and W.N.B.A. players have been speaking out. W.N.B.A. teams are honoring Griner this season with decals of her initials and jersey number, 42, on each of the league’s 12 courts.In June, while in Washington for a game, members of the Mercury met with State Department officials and members of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs. They also met with representatives Greg Stanton, Democrat of Arizona; Sheila Jackson Lee, Democrat of Texas; and Colin Allred, Democrat of Texas, who had introduced a resolution calling for Griner’s release. More

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    Brittney Griner to Biden: ‘I’m Terrified I Might Be Here Forever.’

    Brittney Griner, the W.N.B.A. star who has been detained in Russia on drug charges since February, sent a handwritten letter to President Biden on Monday asking him not to forget about her.“As I sit here in a Russian prison, alone with my thoughts and without the protection of my wife, family, friends, Olympic jersey or any accomplishments, I’m terrified I might be here forever,” Griner said in an excerpt from the letter shared by her representatives.She continued: “I realize you are dealing with so much, but please don’t forget about me and the other American detainees. Please do all you can to bring us home.”A White House spokeswoman would not say whether the president had received the letter, but she provided a statement from Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council.“President Biden has been clear about the need to see all U.S. nationals who are held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad released, including Brittney Griner. The U.S. government continues to work aggressively — using every available means — to bring her home,” Watson said.Better Understand the Russia-Ukraine WarHistory and Background: Here’s what to know about Russia and Ukraine’s relationship and the causes of the conflict.How the Battle Is Unfolding: Russian and Ukrainian forces are using a bevy of weapons as a deadly war of attrition grinds on in eastern Ukraine.Russia’s Brutal Strategy: An analysis of more than 1,000 photos found that Russia has used hundreds of weapons in Ukraine that are widely banned by international treaties.Outside Pressures: Governments, sports organizations and businesses are taking steps to punish Russia. Here are some of the sanctions adopted so far and a list of companies that have pulled out of the country.Stay Updated: To receive the latest updates on the war in your inbox, sign up here. The Times has also launched a Telegram channel to make its journalism more accessible around the world.She added that “the president’s team is in regular contact with Brittney’s family.”Griner, 31, was detained on Feb. 17 after she was accused of having hashish oil in her luggage at an airport near Moscow. She was in Russia to play with UMMC Yekaterinburg, a professional women’s basketball team that she had competed for during several W.N.B.A. off-seasons. She has played for the W.N.B.A.’s Phoenix Mercury since 2013, when the team drafted her with the No. 1 overall pick, and she has won two Olympic gold medals with the U.S. women’s national basketball team.Griner faces up to 10 years in a penal colony if she is convicted of the drug charges in Russia. Her trial began Friday, and legal experts said that she was likely to be found guilty. But not necessarily on the merits of the case.“There’s a bias mainly because the Russian judicial system says they really should not go to trial unless the defendant is going to be convicted,” William Pomeranz, the acting director of the Kennan Institute and an expert on Russian law, told The New York Times recently. “There’s no real idea or expectation that the defendant could be innocent. There’s no presumption of innocence, really.”Griner has not responded to the charges. The U.S. State Department determined in May that she had been “wrongfully detained,” though it has not said how or why it came to that conclusion. The determination meant that government officials who deal with hostages would work to free her. More than 40 Americans were said to be wrongfully detained around the world earlier this year.In her letter to Biden, Griner referred to the Fourth of July. “It hurts thinking about how I usually celebrate this day because freedom means something completely different to me this year,” she said, adding that she voted for the first time in the 2020 presidential election — and chose Biden.Griner’s wife, Cherelle Griner, has publicly urged Biden to help free her wife. Last month, Lindsay Kagawa Colas, Griner’s agent, coordinated a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris from dozens of women’s and civil rights organizations. The letter said that Griner was enduring “inhumane treatment.”“We now urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home to America immediately and safely,” the letter said.In April, the United States and Russia held a prisoner swap that freed Trevor R. Reed, a former U.S. Marine who had been held on assault charges for more than two years. In exchange, the United States released Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot who was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2011 for trafficking cocaine.U.S. officials have not said whether they would consider a prisoner swap to free Griner.Longstanding tensions between the United States and Russia and the ongoing war in Ukraine have complicated Griner’s situation, but government officials have said that securing her release is a priority.Michael D. Shear More

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    Once Again, Tennis Is Disrupted by Politics

    The sport has a long history of disputes, especially over apartheid. This year Wimbledon has banned Russian and Belarusian players.If he had it to do over, Brad Gilbert would never have played a professional tennis tournament in South Africa while the country was embroiled in apartheid.Martina Navratilova has never regretted challenging Czechoslovakia’s Communist government by defecting to the United States in 1975, but she wishes she had been able to convince her parents and younger sister to come with her.And Cliff Drysdale, the first president of the ATP, the men’s pro players’ association, is still in awe of his fellow pros for agreeing to boycott Wimbledon in 1973 when the Croatian player Nikola Pilic was suspended by his native Yugoslav Tennis Federation, which said he refused to play for Yugoslavia in the Davis Cup in New Zealand.Cliff Drysdale, far right, president of the ATP, announcing that its members would boycott Wimbledon in 1973 because the Yugoslav Tennis Federation had suspended the Croatian player Nikola Pilic. PA Images, via Getty ImagesTennis and politics have long had a craggy relationship. This year alone, the sport has been embroiled in three international incidents — Novak Djokovic’s deportation from Australia on the eve of the Australian Open because he did not have a Covid vaccination; the Women’s Tennis Association canceling all tournaments in China following accusations by Peng Shuai that she was sexually assaulted by a high-ranking government official; and Wimbledon banning Russian and Belarusian players because of the war in Ukraine. Both the WTA and the ATP subsequently stripped this year’s Wimbledon of all ranking points.As this tournament begins, five male players ranked in the world’s top 50, including No. 1 Daniil Medvedev and No. 8 Andrey Rublev, both Russians, will be absent because of the Wimbledon ban. Also banned are the Russians Karen Khachanov, ranked No. 22, and Aslan Karatsev, No. 43; and the Belarusian Ilya Ivashka, No. 40.Daniil Medvedev, the No. 1 player in the world, is among the Russians who will not be allowed to compete at Wimbledon. Thomas F. Starke/Getty ImagesFor the women, 13 players who would have qualified are not allowed to play, including the Russians Daria Kasatkina, ranked No. 13, Veronika Kudermetova, No. 22, and No. 83 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, the 2021 French Open runner-up; and the Belarusians Aryna Sabalenka, No. 6 and a semifinalist last year at both Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, and No. 20 Victoria Azarenka, a former world No. 1.The United States Tennis Association has already announced that players from Russia and Belarus will be allowed to compete at the United States Open in August, though not under their nations’ flags.Better Understand the Russia-Ukraine WarHistory and Background: Here’s what to know about Russia and Ukraine’s relationship and the causes of the conflict.How the Battle Is Unfolding: Russian and Ukrainian forces are using a bevy of weapons as a deadly war of attrition grinds on in eastern Ukraine.Russia’s Brutal Strategy: An analysis of more than 1,000 photos found that Russia has used hundreds of weapons in Ukraine that are widely banned by international treaties.Outside Pressures: Governments, sports organizations and businesses are taking steps to punish Russia. Here are some of the sanctions adopted so far and a list of companies that have pulled out of the country.Stay Updated: To receive the latest updates on the war in your inbox, sign up here. The Times has also launched a Telegram channel to make its journalism more accessible around the world.“I have some sympathy for the Russian players, but Wimbledon did the right thing,” said Drysdale, a Wimbledon semifinalist in 1965 and 1966. “We have to do anything possible to send a message to the Kremlin that they are committing crimes against humanity.”In 1964, anti-apartheid demonstrators tried to stop a Davis Cup match in Oslo. Organizers eventually moved the match to a secret location without spectators.Keystone/Getty ImagesThroughout his decades in the sport, Drysdale has witnessed several instances in which tennis and world politics have collided. A native South African, Drysdale, 81, played against Norway in the Davis Cup in 1964 under police protection after demonstrators protesting apartheid tossed rocks and lay down on the court until event organizers were forced to move the match to a secret location without spectators.Drysdale was also a member of the team in 1974 when South Africa, which had been temporarily reinstated after it was banned in 1970, won the Davis Cup by default because India refused to travel to the country over objections to apartheid.And in the Pilic Affair, as it was called at the time, the newly formed ATP, led by Drysdale, objected to the disciplinary action taken against Pilic, which denied him the opportunity to compete at Wimbledon. About 80 men withdrew from the tournament in support of Pilic, including 13 of the top 16 seeds. Wimbledon went on, but with a significantly weakened field.“Our sport is always going to be subjected to political forces, said Drysdale, an ESPN commentator since the network’s inception in 1979. “There’s always something coming around the corner and rearing its head.”If it weren’t for politics, Jimmy Connors might have captured the Grand Slam in 1974. That year, Connors won 94 of 98 matches and 15 of 20 tournaments, including Wimbledon and the Australian and U.S. Opens. But he was barred from playing the French Open by the French Tennis Federation and the ATP when he signed a contract to play World TeamTennis, the fledging league founded in part by Billie Jean King. The French federation and the ATP argued that World TeamTennis took players away from tour events.Martina Navratilova in 1975 after requesting asylum in the United States. Navratilova, who was 18 at the time, said in a recent interview, “I knew I was brave at the time, but I had no idea what a political situation it would create.”Associated PressA year later, Navratilova created an international incident when she defected from Czechoslovakia right after losing to Chris Evert in the semifinals of the 1975 U.S. Open. Navratilova, then just 18, felt chafed by the then-Communist Czech government, which controlled her finances, travel visas, even her doubles partners.“I defected because my country wouldn’t let me out,” Navratilova, who would go on to win 18 major singles championships, including nine Wimbledons and four U.S. Opens, said in an interview this month. “I really had no idea what I was doing or when I would see my family again. I knew I was brave at the time, but I had no idea what a political situation it would create.”Seven years after Navratilova’s defection, the Chinese player Hu Na fled her hotel room during the 1982 Federation Cup in California and sought political asylum. Her request was granted, but only once, in 1985, did Hu reach the third round at Wimbledon. She ultimately settled in Taiwan.Andy Roddick doesn’t like to take credit, but he is partly responsible for Shahar Peer of Israel being allowed to compete in the United Arab Emirates.In 2009, Peer was denied a visa to play in a WTA tournament in Dubai. The U.A.E. and Israel had no diplomatic relations at the time, and tournament organizers said that Peer’s appearance would incite protests. The move prompted Tennis Channel to cancel its coverage of the tournament.The Israeli player Shahar Peer was allowed to play in a tournament in Dubai in 2010 only after Andy Roddick, the defending champion, refused to compete in the tournament in 2009 because Peer had been denied a visa.Marwan Naamani/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesRoddick, in support of Peer, pulled out of the Dubai Tennis Championships despite being the defending champion. The next year Peer was granted a visa to compete in Dubai, though she was surrounded by security guards, and her matches, including a semifinal loss to Venus Williams, were relegated to an inconspicuous outside court.Gilbert is sympathetic to the plight of the Ukrainian players and those from Russia and Belarus. He worries that if the players speak out against their governments’ policies they will jeopardize their families at home. Gilbert, a former player, coach and current ESPN analyst, also understands Wimbledon’s position.“You have to realize that Wimbledon is a private, member-owned club,” Gilbert said by phone last week. “The tournament is not run by a national federation the way the Australian, French and U.S. Opens are. Wimbledon makes its own decisions. They don’t answer to anyone.”Anti-apartheid demonstrators in 1977 outside the U.S. Open protesting the participation of South Africans in the tournament.Dave Pickoff/Associated PressGilbert didn’t answer to anyone when he decided to compete in South Africa five times from 1983 to 1988. Even though he said that Arthur Ashe, the president of the ATP, asked him to stay away because of the political situation, Gilbert opted to take both the appearance fees and the prize money.In 1987, Gilbert was vilified for playing in Johannesburg to amass enough points to qualify for the year-end Masters. By reaching the final of the South African Open, he overtook fellow American Tim Mayotte, who refused to compete on moral grounds.“It was probably the wrong thing to do. At 22, what did I know?” said Gilbert, referring to when he first played in South Africa. “I didn’t realize the gravity of the situation. Brad Gilbert now wouldn’t go there. I understand now that politics and sports can’t help but be intertwined. Back then I was just dumb.” More

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    Where Have You Gone, Arthur Ashe? LIV Tour Golfers Need You.

    Our columnist asks whether players who have defected to the Saudi-financed golf series will use their platform to bring awareness to human rights violations. Don’t hold your breath.Maybe some good for the world can come out of the lavish new golf tour backed by Saudi Arabia, among the most repressive governments in the world in the eyes of human rights groups.Maybe Greg Norman will use his perch to speak loudly about the Saudi’s crackdown on dissent.Maybe Dustin Johnson will challenge the Saudis to create an open justice system that follows the rule of law.Maybe Phil Mickelson will stand at a podium and demand the Saudis give a full accounting of what happened to Jamal Khashoggi, the Washington Post journalist brutally murdered by henchmen on orders, the Central Intelligence Agency has said, from Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Yes, the same Prince Mohammed now using the LIV Golf series to distract from the truth about his homeland.Don’t hold your breath. None of the golfers who signed on to the LIV tour in exchange for staggering sums will speak up. They are too spineless and too compromised, working as they do for a tour funded by a government that tramples human rights.Sure, in February, Mickelson had to turn tail and hide after admitting to the journalist Alan Shipnuck that the tour he was about to join was funded by “less than savory individuals.” And yes, in a wince-worthy news conference last week, Mickelson hailed LIV Golf in one breath and then, in another, said he did not condone “human rights violations.”But Mickelson wasn’t about to take the risk of saying anything specific or truly challenging. He went for the one-inch putt and moved on. Don’t expect any of these golfers, or the others who have decided to jump aboard despite banishment from the PGA Tour, to use their fame as a bullhorn and their newfound ties to Saudi Arabia to effect change on the international stage.If you want a potent example of someone who did that, look up Arthur Ashe, his controversial visits to play in apartheid-era South Africa in the 1970s, and how he used his celebrity and gravitas to shame the racist regime while playing the South African Open.There were plenty of activists who disagreed with Ashe’s decision to visit a country where the Black majority lived under the boot of racist whites. But right or wrong, he went, believing engagement would bring more reform than cutting South Africa off. He took with him the guts to confront power — right up until 1977, when he realized real change was not happening and vowed to never play again while the nation was ruled by apartheid.The tennis star Arthur Ashe during hearings of the General Assembly’s Special Committee on Apartheid in 1970.As a frustrated Ashe wrote at the time: “What good is it, the grand scheme of human rights and dignity, to say to a Black South African, ‘You can run in this track meet,’ when he still can’t vote, own a home, make a decent living, attend a school, change his residence without government permission or even walk the streets without carrying that loathsome pass?”After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison in 1990, he was asked if he wanted to meet anybody in the United States. His response: How about Arthur Ashe?What matters most is that Ashe tried to make change. He spoke up. He made demands. He took an American news crew to South Africa to document what was really going on. These golfers won’t do anything close. They seem bent on silence while making a fortune stained by blood.Fattening their already fattened wallets is the only concern. And in this regard, they appear to have made a prudent decision. Their rogue tour promises to host the richest tournaments in golf history. Mickelson is reportedly making $200 million to play in the LIV Golf series. Johnson is said to be earning $150 million, no matter how he fares.The tour’s inaugural event, held in London, ended Saturday. Five events will be held in the United States this year. The South African Charl Schwartzel, 37, whose career peaked with a win at the Masters in 2011, finished first in both the individual and team competitions in the opening event, and took home $4.75 million.In a news conference after the tournament, he deflected criticism of the Saudi-backed windfall, saying “where the money comes from” is not something he has ever considered in his career.There are 4.75 million reasons he won’t start now.“I think if I start digging everywhere where we played,” he added, “you could find fault in anything.”Ah, the all-too-typical response. Imagine Ashe saying the same thing when visiting Schwartzel’s homeland at the height of its racist depravity. Cynics claim no one has the high ground, so it makes little sense to mix sports with politics and human rights — as, for instance, Wimbledon did this year when it barred Russian and Belarusian players because of their nations’ war against Ukraine.A Quick Guide to the LIV Golf SeriesCard 1 of 6A new series. More

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    What Is LIV Golf? It Depends Who You Ask.

    Bold new project or crass money grab? Even golf’s best players can’t agree on the new Saudi-financed golf tour. Here’s what you need to know.The new Saudi-financed, controversy-trailed LIV Golf series, which is holding its first event this week at an exclusive club north of London, is the talk of golf. Not always, though, in the ways its organizers had hoped.But what is it? Who is playing it? What’s all the hubbub, and how can you watch it? Here’s what you need to know.What is LIV Golf?The new series, bankrolled by Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, is billing itself as “an opportunity to reinvigorate golf” through rich paydays, star players and slick marketing. “Golf but louder,” goes one of its slogans.LIV Golf’s organizers hope to position it as a player-power-focused alternative to the PGA Tour, which has been the highest level of pro golf for nearly a century.Its critics, which include some of the world’s best players, have labeled it an unseemly money grab.How much money are we talking about?The LIV Golf events are the richest tournaments in golf history — this week’s total purse is $25 million, with a $20 million pot for the individual event and $5 million more to split in the team competition. The winner’s share this week is $4 million, and the last-place finisher at each event is guaranteed $120,000.And that is on top of the appearance fees and signing-on payouts individual players have accepted. Phil Mickelson is being paid a reported $200 million to take part, and Dustin Johnson, the highest-ranked player to sign up-to-date, is said to have been tempted by an offer worth $150 million. Bryson DeChambeau and Patrick Reed, two other top stars expected to compete in the next LIV series event in Oregon, will surely be expecting similar inducements to surrender their PGA Tour careers.Who are the players?The 48 players in the initial LIV Golf event were not exactly a who’s who of golf. There were, of course, big names and former major champions familiar to regular watchers of pro golf: Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson, Sergio García, Ian Poulter, Louis Oosthuizen, Graeme McDowell.Sergio García eagerly renounced his PGA Tour membership to join the LIV Golf series.Paul Childs/Action Images Via ReutersBut the biggest names in golf stayed away: Tiger Woods said no despite an offer of nearly $1 billion, per Forbes, and Rory McIlroy has publicly rejected the idea. And a large number of the LIV players are probably strangers to even deeply committed golf fans: The American James Piot, for example, has only ever played in one of golf’s four majors, and missed the cut in it. David Puig is a 20-year-old Spanish amateur. Ratchanon Chantananuwat of Thailand is only 15.Not everyone is (or, rather, was) a PGA Tour member, either, which was why only 17 members of the LIV Golf Series were suspended by the tour on Thursday.Read More on Formula 1The 2022 season of the global motorsport, which is enjoying growing popularity and seeking to expand its appeal, is underway.Welcome to Miami: The city became the second U.S. city to host a Formula 1 race. The event featured massive parties, fashion shows and world-famous DJs.An American Conundrum: Liberty Media, which bought Formula 1 in 2017, wants to increase the sport’s popularity in the United States. Why, then, are there no American-born drivers?‘Drive to Survive’: The Netflix series about Formula 1 has been a hit. But the racer Max Verstappen has some bones to pick.Sharing the Spotlight: Drivers in the North America-based IndyCar racing series have welcomed Formula 1’s success. But some fear losing their fans to it.Why did the PGA Tour suspend them?The PGA Tour suspended the players because it requires members to request and receive a release to play in events that conflict with those on its schedule.The punishments were not a surprise: The PGA Tour had clearly signaled months ago that it would take action against any of its players who joined. So moments after the players hit their first shots in the debut event on Thursday, the tour dropped the hammer.“In accordance with the PGA Tour’s tournament regulations, the players competing this week without releases are suspended or otherwise no longer eligible to participate in PGA Tour tournament play, including the Presidents Cup,” the tour said in a statement to its members. It said the suspensions also applied to any PGA Tour affiliates — circuits like the lower-tier Korn Ferry Tour, tours in Canada and Latin America and, notably for the older players who joined the LIV series, the PGA Tour Champions series for golfers over 50.In addition, the PGA Tour said, the players who have resigned their memberships in the tour will be removed from the FedEx Cup points list — essentially ruling them out of the multimillion-dollar season-ending championship series — and are ineligible to use side doors like sponsor’s exemptions or past champion status to get into tour events.But in a letter explaining the suspensions to other pros, the tour’s commissioner, Jay Monahan, also included a direct warning to any players weighing offers to play in LIV Golf events when the series shifts to the United States later this month.“The same fate,” Monahan said of the bans, “holds true for any other players who participate in future Saudi Golf League events in violation of our regulations.”How did the players react?With a mix of caginess, disappointment and disdain. While the bans were announced almost as soon as the players hit their first shots, a few did not learn about the suspensions until they had completed their rounds.Phil Mickelson, whose participation has aroused the most interest, refused to comment, and the former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell said he had expected the punishment, and had already been in contact with lawyers.Ian Poulter insisted that he and the others in the field had not done anything wrong, and said he would appeal. “It makes no sense how I’ve played the game of golf for all this time, I’ve had two tour cards and the ability to play all over the world,” Poulter told reporters. “What’s wrong with that?”Sergio García, the Spanish player who had renounced his tour membership when he joined the LIV Golf Series, essentially said he didn’t care what the PGA Tour did. “I resigned a week and a half ago,” he said, “so whatever the PGA Tour says doesn’t — doesn’t go with me because I’m not a member.”That led to the following exchange with a reporter:Are you banned anyway?No, I’m not banned because I’m not a member of it.Not according to Jay Monahan?Well he received my letter. That’s up to him. It doesn’t bother me.Phil Mickelson was the biggest name to join the new series, but his comments about its Saudi backers have raised eyebrows, and led him into at least one apology.Matthew Lewis/Getty ImagesDo the players have genuine grievances?Some of the players who have signed up to the LIV series, and even many that have not, believe they are getting a raw deal from the PGA Tour. The biggest stars contend their earnings should be more commensurate with their status in the game, and they have pointed out how the best players in other sports earn far more than golfers do.Players and their representatives have often pointed out how golf’s main tours are able to secure hundreds of millions in television rights fees thanks to the star power of a handful of top tour professionals. But the money they make, however famous they are, has to be earned in the same way: through prize money. The career prize-money earnings of golf’s highest achievers, top stars like Woods or McIlroy, are equivalent to what the world’s best soccer players or an elite N.B.A. stars can earn from their teams in a single year. (To be clear: Both Woods and McIlroy have been able to make multiples of those on-course earnings through personal endorsements; Woods is reportedly now a billionaire.) Both have also earned sizable bonuses from the PGA Tour’s new program meant to measure a player’s appeal and popularity across the calendar year.But anger and action are different things: McIlroy is arguably the most high-profile opponent of the breakaway event among current tour players, and he has made several pronouncements that money should not be the main driver of golf’s development. And Woods also has spoken up in favor of the PGA Tour, reminding the world that much of his global fame is thanks to his achievements at tour events.How do the LIV Golf events work?LIV Golf has set up what are essentially shorter tournaments with smaller fields — three rounds instead of four, and with only 48 players competing instead of the rosters on the PGA Tour, which can be three times as large some weeks — and featuring concurrent individual and team play events.With the small field, there is no cut midway through the event to lop off the stragglers, and every round starts with a shotgun start, meaning players tee off from each hole on the course simultaneously and then proceed around the course’s layout from there.The LIV Golf individual competition will feel, in many ways, like a traditional golf event: three rounds, lowest score wins. The team event will see the players drafted by captains into four-man squads (teams with odd names, let’s be honest, like Fireballs and Majesticks) that will contest a separate competition, and for a separate prize pot, each week.This week’s leaderboard, for example, lists individual scores and team affiliations.How is that different from the PGA Tour?With rare exceptions, PGA Tour events generally consist of four-rounds of stroke play, in which players compete against one another to post the lowest score. And while the LIV Golf format might feel unusual for players and viewers, the ultimate goal — circle the 18-hole course in as few shots as possible — is the same.How many events are there?Eight this year, but plans to expand to 10 next year and even more in subsequent seasons are being drawn up. The first seven events this year make up what LIV Golf is calling its regular season. The eighth will be the team championship and include a four-day, four-round seeded match-play event.Those season-ending championships all include their own multimillion-dollar paydays for eligible players.Fans at the first LIV Golf event paid more than $80 each for the lowest-priced grounds passes.Matthew Lewis/Getty ImagesWhat’s with that name?LIV (rhymes with give) Golf chose Roman numerals for its name. If it’s been a while since you studied those in school, LIV translates to 54, which is the number of holes each player will complete in each event’s three-round format, which is one fewer round than a typical PGA Tour workweek, but for a lot more money.(Before you ask: The most recent N.F.L. championship game was Super Bowl LVI, or 56.)How can I watch?Despite its high-profile golfers and its big-money backing, LIV Golf has not yet secured a broadcast rights agreement in the United States — the most lucrative market for televised sports — and will be shown on lesser-watched streaming services in much of the world. (Here’s a full list of non-U.S. options.) That doesn’t mean you can’t watch in the United States, though: This week’s tournament will be available via live streams on LIVGolf.com, YouTube and Facebook.Normally, television networks would have jumped at the chance to show live sports during slow times on the calendar; witness yet another spring football league being shown on television. But ESPN, CBS, NBC and Amazon are in the first year of a nine-year agreement that has them collectively paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually to the PGA Tour to show tournaments. Those networks may have their fill of golf. They may also not want to court controversy, nor anger their business partner, the PGA Tour.History suggests, however, that if LIV Golf does prove to be a success, major rights agreements won’t be far behind. With consumers continuing to slowly abandon pay television, live sports is just about the only type of programming that delivers large, and lucrative, audiences anymore. And the streaming services that are luring those consumers away know that live sports is one of the best ways to get new customers, and keep old ones.So is this just a vanity project for Saudi Arabia?Not exactly. We asked Ben Hubbard, who covers the Middle East as the Beirut bureau chief for The Times and has written a book on Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, to explain the kingdom’s motivations in a bit more depth. His response:Saudi Arabia’s backing of the new series is the latest example of the way oil-rich Gulf monarchies use their vast wealth to invest in sports and cultural institutions in hopes of raising their countries’ international profiles and shifting how they are viewed by people in Western countries.Saudi Arabia’s investments in international sports and culture have accelerated rapidly since 2015, when Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman began his ascent to become the kingdom’s de facto ruler and spearheaded a massive overhaul aimed at opening up its economy and culture.For more that a decade, that effort has included governments hosting Formula One races and professional boxing and wrestling matches; opening branches of world-class museums and universities like the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Georgetown University in Qatar; and buying up European soccer clubs. (Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, which the crown prince leads as chairman, acquired the Premier League club Newcastle United last year.)Yasir Al-Rumayyan, in blue jacket, on Thursday. He is a governor of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, which is financing the LIV Golf series, and the chairman of the Saudi-owned Premier League club Newcastle United.Matthew Lewis/Getty ImagesIn investing in golf, though, it appears that the Saudis are seeking to win over a different category of sports fan, according to Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, who studies Gulf politics at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University.“They are looking for an older, more professional market to try to make inroads to, a wealthier demographic,” Ulrichsen said.That group includes fans of former President Donald Trump, and perhaps even Trump himself, with whom the crown prince enjoys a close relationship.Two of the LIV Golf Series events, in fact, will be at Trump-owned courses: the first in late July, at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., and the season-ending team championship in October, at Trump National Doral Miami.How has that gone over?Not always well. One of LIV Golf’s biggest signings, Mickelson, provoked outrage in February when he praised the series as a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” even as he called Saudi Arabia’s record on human rights “horrible” and used an expletive to describe the country’s leaders as “scary.” The project’s main architect, the former player Greg Norman, made things worse a few weeks later when he dismissed Saudi Arabia’s murder and dismemberment of Khashoggi by saying, “Look, we’ve all made mistakes.”Not that the pro golf’s existing power structures, including the PGA Tour, hold the moral high ground.What’s next?The tour’s next four events are in the United States, starting with a stop at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club outside Portland, Ore., from June 30 to July 2, and then tournaments in New Jersey, Boston and Chicago. Trips to Thailand and Saudi Arabia follow, before the season-ending event in Florida. The full schedule is here.Kevin Draper contributed reporting. More

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    Chinese Tennis Star, Zheng Qinwen, Emerges During French Open

    Zheng Qinwen, 19, has emerged during this French Open, amid the backdrop of a long standoff between China and the women’s tour over Peng Shuai.PARIS — To keep things simpler for her Mandarin-challenged Western friends, the rising Chinese tennis star Zheng Qinwen often goes by the nickname Ana.But if you watch the teenage Zheng hit a forehand, a serve or just about any shot on a tennis court, her first English-language nickname seems more appropriate.“At the real beginning at IMG, they called me Fire,” she said in an interview at the French Open on Friday, referring to her management company, IMG.There is indeed plenty of power and passion in Zheng’s game, as she demonstrated in her second-round upset of Simona Halep. Ranked No. 74 and climbing, Zheng, a 19-year-old French Open rookie with a lively personality, is one of the most promising young players in the world as she prepares to face Alizé Cornet of France on Saturday on the main Philippe Chatrier Court.But Zheng’s run comes at a particularly uncertain time for an emerging Chinese tennis star. She is one of the leaders of the so-called Li Na generation: the group of young Chinese players who gravitated to the game after the success of Li, China’s first Grand Slam singles champion and long one of the highest-earning female athletes. “Li Na makes me think big,” said Zheng, just 8 years old when Li won the French Open in 2011.Li, who retired in September 2014 at age 32, was one of the catalysts for the WTA Tour’s decision to increase its presence in China, packing its late-season calendar with tournaments in the country including the WTA Finals, the tour’s year-end championships, which moved to Shenzhen, China, in 2019 for 10 years and offered a record $14 million in prize money, including a winner’s check of over $4 million.But despite the long-term deal, there has yet to be another WTA Finals in China and no tour event of any kind since global sporting events were disrupted in early 2020 near the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Though the tour resumed in other parts of the world later that year, China kept its borders shut to most international visitors and international sports events.In December, the WTA Tour suspended all tournaments in China because of allegations made by Peng Shuai, a prominent Chinese player. In an online post, Peng accused Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier of China, of sexual assault. The post was quickly taken down and online conversation about Peng in China was censored.The WTA requested guarantees of her safety, a direct line of communication with her and, most improbably in light of the Chinese context, a full and transparent investigation into the allegations. Peng has since reappeared in public in China and suggested that her online post had been misinterpreted and that she had not made sexual assault allegations. She also has announced her retirement at age 36. But though the issue has largely faded from the headlines, the WTA Tour has not lifted the suspension or backed away from its demands for an investigation. It is still unable to communicate with her directly and concerned that she has been coerced into a retraction.The WTA already has announced that it will not return to China this season, and it is possible even without the WTA suspension that the Chinese government would not have allowed tournaments to go ahead in 2022 considering that numerous major cities, including Shanghai, have been locked down in recent weeks because of new restrictions amid a surge in coronavirus cases.For now — and perhaps quite a bit longer — Zheng and her compatriots are without a Chinese showcase for their talents even though the men’s tour has not suspended its events in China.“Of course, I wish I can play at home,” Zheng said. “I know it is China decision, and I cannot do anything. Let’s see.”The three-year absence of tour-level events in China also means that Zheng and the other Chinese women’s players must remain abroad even more than usual.“I’m sad because if they make a lot of tournaments in China then I have a chance to come back,” she said. Zheng, now based in Barcelona, Spain, and coached by Pere Riba, a former top-100 men’s player, has spent much of her short life away from home. Originally from the central Chinese city of Shiyan, Zheng was encouraged by her parents to choose a sport.“My parents asked me to choose between basketball, badminton and tennis, and I found out my favorite sport is tennis,” said Zheng, who also spent two years playing table tennis before losing interest. “I felt like there was more space to compete. Tennis is a game of choice. It’s not who’s stronger or who’s more powerful or who’s faster. Every decision you make on court can change the match.”She was an only child but said she moved to Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and about 250 miles from Shiyan, when she was just 8. She said she spent four years there.“That was a difficult time for me because I was not with my parents at that moment,” she said. “They came to visit me like once a week or two weeks one time.”She said it was her father’s decision for her to join the tennis program in Wuhan so young. “He saw that I was good at tennis, and he wanted to see if I could do something,” she said.The talent scouts soon agreed. IMG signed her to a contract at age 11, not long after her father convinced her mother to make the long journey to the United States with Zheng in November 2013 to take part in the Nick Bollettieri Discovery Open, an event at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., that was open to young players without an invitation.“My mother didn’t want to go,” Zheng said. “But my father said now she is the best in China at her age so now you have to see where she is in the world.”Her first impression?“The first thought I had in the head was, ‘Wow, the sky is so blue,’” she said. “Because China, you know, had a little bit of pollution at that time.”Once on the court, she brought the thunder. “I happened to be there,” said Marijn Bal, who became one of Zheng’s agent at IMG. “And the coaches were watching all the matches, and they were like, ‘You have to come. There’s this Chinese girl who is amazing.’”Upon returning to China, she eventually relocated to Beijing to train at an academy run by Carlos Rodriguez, the Argentine-Belgian coach who worked with Li at the end of her career and had spent more than a decade coaching Justine Henin, a former No. 1 player.Zheng said she spent 90 minutes a day working with Rodriguez for several years on technique, tactics and her mentality. “I think Carlos made the base for what I am right now,” Zheng said.What she is now, with her power game modeled initially after Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters, is a threat to the establishment. That includes Cornet, a 32-year-old French star in perhaps her final season who will have no shortage of crowd support on Saturday as Zheng makes her debut on center court.“I’m ready for that,” Zheng said calmly. “I like to play on the big stages.”Until further notice, however, the big stages in women’s tennis are all outside of China. More

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    Inside the Chelsea Sale: Deep Pockets, Private Promises and Side Deals

    Britain’s government has cleared the sale of the Premier League soccer team. But to win approval, the new owners had to agree to a set of unusual conditions.LONDON — The British government on Wednesday gave its blessing to the purchase of Chelsea F.C., one of European soccer’s blue-ribbon teams, by an American-led investment group after deciding it had sufficient assurances that none of the proceeds from the record sale price — $3.1 billion — would flow to the club’s Russian owner.The government’s approval signaled the end of not only the most expensive deal in sports history but possibly the most fraught, cryptic and political, too.In the three months since the Russian oligarch who owns Chelsea, Roman Abramovich, hurriedly put his team on the market, the club’s fate has played out not only on the fields of some of world soccer’s richest competitions but in the corridors of power at Westminster and the soaring towers of Wall Street. And all of it is against the backdrop of crippling financial sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.“We are now satisfied that the full proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned individual,” the government said in a statement. The path to a deal has entangled a scarcely probable cast of characters — private equity funds and anonymous offshore trusts; lawmakers in Britain and Portugal; an octogenarian Swiss billionaire and the American tennis star Serena Williams; an enigmatic Russian oligarch and a little known Portuguese rabbi — and featured a contested passport, wartime peace talks and even reports of an attempted poisoning.Its end leaves as many questions as answers. All that can be said for certain is that a group led by the Los Angeles Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly and largely financed by the private equity firm Clearlake will now control Chelsea, a six-time English and two-time European champion, and Abramovich will not.The American investor Todd Boehly leads a group that is now set to complete its purchase of Chelsea.Adrian Dennis/Agence France-Presse — Getty ImagesAbramovich first indicated his intention to sell Chelsea — the most high-profile of his assets by some distance — almost as soon as the Russian army crossed into Ukraine in late February, and only a week before Britain and the European Union identified him as a key ally of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and froze his assets.Completing a deal, though, has proved fiendishly convoluted. The final obstacle to a sale was resolved only this week, when lawmakers in Britain were sufficiently satisfied that a $2 billion loan owed to an offshore trust, believed to be controlled by Abramovich, had been cleared. British government officials then tried to reassure their counterparts in Portugal, which had controversially granted Abramovich a Portuguese passport with a rabbi’s help in 2018, and the European Union, which had imposed its own sanctions on Abramovich in March. Both must also approve the sale because of his Portuguese citizenship.But the loan was not the only complication faced by Raine, the New York-based investment bank recruited by Abramovich to handle the sale. The agreement with Boehly’s group came with a web of conditions, some set by the British government, some by Raine and some by Abramovich himself, all of them striking in the context of the sale of a sports team.Better Understand the Russia-Ukraine WarHistory and Background: Here’s what to know about Russia and Ukraine’s relationship and the causes of the conflict.How the Battle Is Unfolding: Russian and Ukrainian forces are using a bevy of weapons as a deadly war of attrition grinds on in eastern Ukraine.Outside Pressures: Governments, sports organizations and businesses are taking steps to punish Russia. Here are some of the sanctions adopted so far and a list of companies that have pulled out of the country.Stay Updated: To receive the latest updates on the war in your inbox, sign up here. The Times has also launched a Telegram channel to make its journalism more accessible around the world.All four prospective suitors identified by Raine as serious contenders — Boehly’s group; one headed by the British businessman Martin Broughton that included Williams and the Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton among its partners; another financed by Steve Pagliuca, the owner of the N.B.A.’s Boston Celtics; and one from the Ricketts family, who control baseball’s Chicago Cubs — were asked not only to pay a jaw-dropping price for the team but also to commit to a number of pledges, including as much as $2 billion more in investments in Chelsea.The club’s suitors were told, for instance, that they cannot sell their stake within the first decade of ownership and that they must earmark $125 million for the club’s women’s team; invest millions more in the club’s academy and training facilities; and commit to rebuilding Stamford Bridge, Chelsea’s aging West London stadium.Chelsea’s new owners agreed to several conditions, including sizable investments in the club’s decorated women’s team.Michael Regan/Getty ImagesAt the same time, Abramovich insisted that all the proceeds from the sale would go toward a new charity to benefit the victims of the war in Ukraine. To ensure he does not gain control of that money, the British government will require it first be placed in a frozen bank account that it controls. Only then will it vet all the plans for the fund being drawn up by Mike Penrose, a former head of a branch of the United Nations children’s charity UNICEF, and issue a special license that will allow the charity to take control of the funds.“We will now begin the process of ensuring the proceeds of the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of the war,” the government said in its statement.The charity was just one of the peculiarities of the deal arranged by Joe Ravitch, the Raine co-founder who directed the sale.The new owners also will not be permitted to take dividends or management fees or load the team with debt — terms that bankers related to the sale have described as “anti-Glazer clauses,” a reference to the unpopular owners of Manchester United who took control of the club in a leveraged buyout in 2005.Several people close to the process said Boehly’s bid was eventually selected from the group of wealthy suitors because of its willingness to abide by the clauses. (At least one of those people, who worked on the bid backed by Pagliuca, said their group withdrew from the running because of the nature of the conditions.)The Premier League has already signed off on the Chelsea sale, announcing Tuesday that it had vetted and approved the new owners “subject to the government issuing the required sale license and the satisfactory completion of final stages of the transaction.”It is not clear, though, quite what will happen if Boehly and his partners choose to renege on any of the conditions once they have control of the club. Any oversight role will fall on the charity, the only outside entity still inextricably linked to both Chelsea and Abramovich, or the continued influence of two key Abramovich lieutenants who hope to remain in their posts under the new owners.Both of those executives — the club chairman Bruce Buck and Marina Granovskaia, a Russian-born businesswoman who rose from being Abramovich’s personal assistant to the most senior official response for soccer trades at Chelsea — will earn at least $12.5 million for their work on the sale. The commissions to management, totaling as much as $50 million, and the fee to Ravitch, believed to be between 0.5 and 1 percent of the deal’s value, will be paid from the club’s balance sheet and not from the sale funds, according to a person familiar with the structure of the deal.Abramovich on a banner at Stamford Bridge. Beloved by fans for his spending on the team, he is barred from receiving any money from its sale. Clive Rose/Getty ImagesBritish government officials had clashed with Chelsea executives and financiers about creating a legally binding resolution to prevent Abramovich from getting access to the money he so publicly said he was willing to waive.At issue was a company called Camberley International Investments, run by a Cypriot trustee on behalf of what British officials believe was Abramovich and his children. Camberley lent $2 billion to Fordstam, the company through which Abramovich controlled Chelsea, to finance its spending and operations. Camberley’s claim against Fordstam has now been resolved, and its trustee has recently resigned.It was only at that point, with a May 31 deadline for the completion of the sale looming, that Britain’s government moved to approve the deal.For Chelsea’s fans, the sale draws an end to a season that at times blurred into absurdity. The sanctions imposed on Abramovich — and by extension Chelsea — affected everything from the team’s travel to the printing and sale of game programs. Thousands of empty seats dotted Stamford Bridge during games over the final months of the season after a ban on new ticket sales, and roster turmoil loomed because of a moratorium on the signing and sale of players.That will now be lifted, with Chelsea’s players and Manager Thomas Tuchel said to be urgently seeking clarity from Boehly and his group on their plans. At least two key defenders are slated to leave Chelsea this summer, and at least two more players — including the club captain, Cesar Azpilicueta — are expected to follow.Defender Antonio Rüdiger, unable to negotiate a new contract, announced he would leave Chelsea for Real Madrid. Other key players may depart this summer, too.Alastair Grant/Associated PressBoehly, a regular presence at Chelsea games since his takeover was announced on May 6, has broadly said he would like to maintain Chelsea as a major force in soccer. It is unlikely, though, that a group largely backed by a private equity firm will prove quite so indulgent as Abramovich was as an owner.In almost two decades at Chelsea, Abramovich was a familiar but all but silent presence at Stamford Bridge, happy to let his money do the talking. Under his leadership, Chelsea was transformed into a true European superpower, winning five Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns by employing a succession of A-list managers and investing billions of dollars in players.His largess changed Chelsea but also soccer as a whole, ushering in an era of unfettered spending that saw transfer fees and player salaries rise to levels unthinkable only a few years earlier. It also came at a price that Chelsea’s income, no matter how much it grew in those years of plenty, could not match. Throughout his tenure, Abramovich used his vast personal fortune to subsidize losses that ran as high as $1 million a week.Yet just as Abramovich’s arrival in 2003 opened the door to a new era for English soccer, his departure serves as a bookmark, too.While scarcity may explain part of the rush to pay a premium for Chelsea — soccer’s biggest teams are rarely up for sale, after all — it is not clear when, or how, a group of private equity investors who navigated such treacherous, confounding waters to get control of the club can start to realize a return on their investment. More