France's Tariq Abdul-Wahad calls for Israeli athletes to be banned from the Paris Olympics. GETTY IMAGES

Tariq Abdul-Wahad calls for more athletes to speak up against the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, saying that being represented in the Games is a privilege and that the country has long since lost this right, Anadolu reported this week.

The former NBA player aims to bring more visibility to the ongoing massacre in Gaza —where Israel has killed over 36,000 people since October— and hopes that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) take action in the sporting realm. Abdul-Wahad pointed out that when Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine, Russian athletes were not allowed to represent their country and were made to compete under a neutral banner.

"We reached a point now where countries who do this have to be punished some way, somehow. I mean, there has to be consequences. If there are not going to be any consequences at the International Court of Justice, at least we need consequences in the realm of sports.” he said. 

While Russia and Belarusian athletes were banned following Russia's war on Ukraine in February 2022, no sanctions have been placed on Israeli athletes to date. 

"If you want to compete in an international competition that is recognised by international organisations, you have to respect international law. Russia did not follow the law. Their athletes got banned. Let's not be hypocrites here. Let's treat everybody the same.” he continued. 

Abdul-Wahad added that athletes could speak up on social media and must find ways to shine a spotlight on what is happening in Gaza "to show that this is a genocide, to show that these are human beings getting butchered and murdered". He highlighted his affiliation with Athletes for Ceasefire —a group uniting athletes in their call to end the Israeli onslaught— and emphasised the role athletes can play in spreading this message.

"Because whether we like it or not, athletes have a platform. This is why the dark side of this situation do not want athletes to be involved because they know that people listen to athletes," he said.

The Frenchman also noted that sports are currently closely intertwined with business and athletes may feel pressured to stay silent as they fear the negative consequences of voicing their opinions. "Some federations also do not encourage their athletes to be socially aware of what is going on ... So, it's very unfortunate," he underlined.  

"It's an absolute shame. It's a shame, but it shows how hypocritical the international organisations are, whether the ones who have to deal with the law or the ones who have to deal with sports or, it's this situation today puts us face to face with our responsibilities and to these organisations face to face with their responsibilities. I hope that they will reverse that decision. Because if we don't have rules within the world, what do we have? We have nothing. It's a free fall. Anybody can do anything and not face the consequences.” Abdul-Wahad remarked.