So the 2021 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships came and went with a watered-down field, largely thanks to the vaccination discrimination policy enacted by Indian Wells and embraced by USA Pickleball. Adding to the controversy was a retributive decision by USAP to ban Zane Navratil from playing men’s doubles with his partner, Altaf Merchant, after he was forced to withdraw from the men’s single finals match against Tyson McGuffin.
Navratil had a schedule conflict because he was committed to supporting his longtime girlfriend, who competed in the Miss America pageant on Sunday. USAP did not notify players of its plans to change the finals to a Championship Sunday instead of same day (clearly to cater to big broadcasting arrangements with ESPN+) until December 2.
Navratil was compelled to explain the horrible situation in a social media video:
From Zane’s post at The Kitchen: “I’ve known for several months that I would not be able to compete on Sunday, December 12th because of Miss America. I was unaware of the championship Sunday format until December 2nd, and had I known earlier, I wouldn’t have registered for the tournament out of fairness to Andrea, Altaf, my competitors, and the tournament. Because of my forfeiture on Sunday, USA Pickleball has made the decision to disallow Altaf and I from competing in men’s doubles today. I apologize to any fans that were looking forward to watching me play, my awesome sponsors Franklin, Therabody, DUPR, and Wilson for not being able to represent them in a National Final, and, most of all, Altaf, who, through no fault of his own, will not be able to compete at the National Championships.”
The decision by the nationals’ organizers was patently unfair.
It was USAP, not Navratil, who pulled the rug out from under players on the schedule format change.
It was USAP, not Navratil, who put its business interests ahead of players.
Hundreds of commenters on Navratil’s Facebook page have weighed in to support him. We agree with legendary pickleball pro athlete Kyle Yates, who makes some very insightful and blunt points about USAP’s last-minute sandbagging of players both pro and amateur who had invested time and money getting to nationals:
Navratil expressed his thanks for all the support.
An APOLOGY from USAP to Navratil and his partner Altaf Merchant for their unjustly punitive measure would be the very least the association could offer.
By the way, if you missed the World Pickleball Open, which also took place this past weekend and did not discriminate based on vaccine status, check out all the action on the APP TV YouTube channel!