In the genteel world of bridge, disputes are usually handled quietly and rarely involve issues of national policy. But a team of women who represented Venezuela at the world bridge championships in Shanghai last month is facing sanctions, including a yearlong ban from competition, for a spur-of-the-moment protest.
At issue is a crudely lettered sign, scribbled on the back of a menu, that was held up at an awards dinner and read, “We did not vote for Chavez.”
By e-mail, angry bridge players have accused the women of “treason” and “sedition.”
“This isn’t a free-speech issue,” said Jan Martel, president of the Venezuelan Bridge Federation, the nonprofit group that selects teams for international tournaments. “There isn’t any question that private organizations can control the speech of people who represent them.”
Internet bloggers loyal to the Chavez administration also lashed out at the Bridge team:
"...how about we add suspending their passports for a couple of years and put them on a no-fly and no-drive list to prevent them from leaving the country during that time …"