Women’s tennis ‘China can be unique, cost millions of dollars’

WTA President and CEO Steve Simon did not set a guiding goal on how the sport should confront China when he stated that Women’s tennis tournament will suspend tournaments there because of concerns about the health condition of former Grand Slam mixed doubles champion Peng Shuai.

And building on Thursday’s initial reactions to the WTA’s groundbreaking stance, including from International Olympic Committee – scheduled to open the Beijing Winter Olympics in two months – along with the men’s tennis tour and the International Tennis Federation, no one seems too eager to follow the types of action that will go accompanied by a real financial hit.

“I do not want to send a message to any other sports body or influence their decisions or judge their decisions. This is a WTA decision that affects WTA athletes and our core principles,” Simon said on a video call with the Associated Press on Wednesday. And I think it goes beyond that, obviously something very, very sensitive all over the world for women, in general. So as the leading women’s sports organization and a direct influence on this, we focus on that.


“I will now encourage everyone who has supported us thus far – and those who have not – to continue to speak out and speak on this very important topic. But as far as what they need to do for the sake of business and for their own reasons, they need to decide for themselves. And I don’t want to influence that.”

The WTA is the first sports body to openly and directly challenge China’s authoritarian government, which generates billions of dollars in revenue from sports based elsewhere, such as the Olympics, tennis racket, NBA and play golf.

Dr. Audrye Wong, a political scientist who studies Chinese politics at the University of Southern California, is skeptical that Simon’s team will have a company.

“This is a brave and commendable step for the WTA, but I doubt that many other sports agencies or businesses will follow in the footsteps of the WTA,” Wong wrote in an email to the AP.


An indication came from the world of tennis in a statement released Thursday by the ITF, which oversees Grand Slams and other events globally, and CEO of ATP Tour Men: Neither mentioned China or the suspension of the WTA.

Wong said Chinese nationals could be asked to boycott foreign tennis-related products – and it’s possible the WTA’s move could lead to more political repression.

“Unfortunately, pressure from abroad will also raise concerns in the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) that social movements like #MeToo pose a threat to the stability of the regime and must be suppressed. harsher repression,” she wrote.

35-year-old Peng, a three-time No. 1 athlete, has abandoned public view after making sexual assault allegations a month ago against retired Zhang Gaoli retired from the Politburo Standing Committee in 2018, the height of political power in China.


Her accusations, posted on social media, were removed from China’s heavily censored internet within half an hour. Peng was subsequently removed from public view. The first #MeToo case to reach the political realm in China has yet to be covered by the domestic press; Online discussion about it has been highly moderated.

Indeed, it seems very few people in the country know about Peng’s allegations or the debacle – or why they may be less likely to watch tennis there next season.

Simon – who noted that he has the full backing of the WTA Board of Directors, players, leagues and sponsors – said the league will not hold events in China until the government there agreed to conduct a full investigation into Peng’s allegations and offered the WTA the opportunity to communicate directly with her. He said that could last until 2022.

There are around 10 annual WTA tournaments in China, including the Season End Tour Finals, scheduled to be held there in a decade.


“I don’t know how to give you a number on what the actual effect will be like, but it will certainly be in the millions of dollars. And, you know, time will tell, based on what happens in our path, how deep and how far it goes. I’m just saying it’s important, for sure. It will be very important,” Simon told AP. “And that is something that we will have to manage and work our way through. But I am confident that we will find a way to manage and work our way. ”

There was almost no response from the Chinese government on Thursday to the WTA’s move. When asked about the suspension of the tournament and Peng’s safety, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also refused to address.

“We have always firmly opposed acts that politicize sports,” Wang told journalists at a daily briefing.

The IOC said Thursday it held a second call with Peng; There is also one on November 21. In either case, the IOC did not release any audio, video or recordings, explaining how the communication was arranged, nor saying whether there was any discussion. about Peng’s sexual assault allegations.


The IOC said it would “keep in regular contact with her and have agreed on a personal meeting in January,” just before the exciting Olympics in Beijing are scheduled to begin on May 4. Two.

After the IOC’s first call with Peng, Dr Mary Gallagher, a China expert at the University of Michigan, said: “The IOC’s response was not offensive to everyone but the Chinese government. , that is the entity they need to please the most.”

Diana Fu, a lecturer at the University of Toronto and studies Chinese state control, said any communications Peng has had so far is likely scripted. She said that the message was aimed outside of China; If Peng’s case becomes widely known in the country, according to Fu, it could act as a catalyst for the #MeToo movement.

“A sex scandal by itself does not paralyze the Party,” said Fu. “But the viral online discussion about it, with its potential to reactivate the fledgling #MeToo movement in China, is scaring Beijing.”



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Huynh Nguyen

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