The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has decided to suspend tournaments in China due to concerns over Peng Shuai’s safety and well-being.
“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,” WTA chief Steve Simon said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”
This is a brave stance by Steve Simon and the WTA where we put principle above $ and stand up for women everywhere and particularly for Peng Shuai.
Now – what say you, @IOC ?!? #IOC – so far I can barely hear you!!!#WhereisPengShuai https://t.co/X7tNDbs3Uu
— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) December 1, 2021
The whereabouts of Peng became a matter of international concern for nearly three weeks after she posted a message on social media alleging that China’s former Vice-Premier Zhang Gaoli had sexually assaulted her.
On November 21, IOC President Thomas Bach had a 30-minute video call with Peng — a three-times Olympian who supporters say may be under political duress — during which she told him she was safe and with family and friends.
But Simon, who said the decision to suspend tournaments in China had the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, is not convinced all is well with Peng.
There are a lot of organizations who can afford to do something like this a lot more than the WTA can ……. Respect. Doing the right thing is a lot easier when there aren’t associated costs. I continue to be proud to be in the tennis orbit #PengShuai https://t.co/c5plFybz4Z
— andyroddick (@andyroddick) December 1, 2021
“To further protect Peng and many other women throughout the world, it is more urgent than ever for people to speak out,” Simon added.
“The WTA will do everything possible to protect its players. As we do so, I hope leaders around the world will continue to speak out so justice can be done for Peng, and all women, no matter the financial ramifications.”
China hosted nine tournaments in the 2019 season, including the season-ending WTA Finals, with a total of $30.4m (£22.6m) in prize money.
In 2018, China had promised to invest about $1 billion in women’s tennis, including for the construction of an all-new stadium, as part of the agreement.