Four Australian Open spectators ‘revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards’, organizer says
Four people attending the Australian Open were questioned by Victoria police after they “revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security officers,” a Tennis Australia spokesperson told CNN on Wednesday.
“Four people in the crowd leaving the stadium revealed inappropriate flags and symbols and threatened security guards,” the Tennis Australia spokesperson said. “Victoria Police have intervened and are continuing to question them.
“Everyone’s comfort and safety is our priority and we work closely with security and the authorities.”
Victoria Police later told CNN that police spoke to four men after a Russian flag was produced on the steps of the pitch at around 10:20 p.m. local time Wednesday in Melbourne. All four men were deported, a police spokesperson told CNN.
Video posted on social media by tennis journalist Tumaini Carayol shows a person holding a flag with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s face on it. It is unclear if those shown in the video were one of the four who were kicked out.
Photos taken by Getty Images show a man wearing a t-shirt with the letter ‘Z’ on it while at the Rod Laver Arena during Wednesday’s men’s singles quarter-final match between Russia’s Andrey Rublev and the Serbian Novak Djokovic.
Tennis Australia did not say whether the man in the photos was one of four people being questioned by police, and a police spokeswoman told CNN she had not seen any footage of the men involved. It is unclear when the man was first seen wearing the shirt. In another photo, the same man is wearing a different shirt.
The “Z” symbol is considered a sign of support for Russia, including its invasion of Ukraine. The symbol has been seen on Russian equipment and clothing in Ukraine.
Tennis Australia has previously said fans will not be allowed to bring the Russian or Belarusian flag to the Australian Open venue to enforce its “neutral flag” policy.