WTA President and CEO Steve Simon did not intend to lead the way for the sport in China when he announced that the women’s tennis tour would suspend tournaments there due to concerns about the welfare of former doubles Grand Slam champion Peng Shuai.
And based on early reactions Thursday to the groundbreaking stance of the WTA, including the International Olympic Committee – which is set to open the Beijing Winter Games in two months – as well as the men’s tennis tour and the International Tennis Federation , no one seems too eager to follow adapting to the types of stocks that would come with a real financial blow.
” I am not trying to send a message to other sports bodies or to influence their decisions or to evaluate their decisions. This is a WTA decision that has affected the WTA athlete and our fundamentals, ” Simon said during a video call with the Associated Press on Wednesday. And I think it goes beyond that, into obviously something very, very globally sensitive for women, in general. So as the leading women’s sports organization, and having a direct effect on that, we are focusing on that.
“Now, I will encourage everyone who has supported us so far – and those who have not – to continue speaking out and talking about this very important topic. But as to what to do for their business interests and for their reasons, they have to make their own decisions. And I’m not trying to influence that. ” The WTA is the first sports body to publicly and directly challenge China’s authoritarian government, which is a source of billions of revenue in sports based elsewhere, like the Olympics, the tennis, the NBA and golf.
Audrye Wong, a political scientist who studies Chinese politics at the University of Southern California, is skeptical of Simon’s group company.
“It is a courageous and laudable move by the WTA, but I doubt that many other sports organizations or companies will follow in the footsteps of the WTA,” Wong wrote in an email to the AP.
One indication came from the tennis world in statements released Thursday by the ITF, which oversees Grand Slam tournaments and other events around the world, and the CEO of the Men’s ATP Tour: neither one nor the another made no mention of China or the suspension of the WTA.
Wong said Chinese citizens could be asked to boycott foreign tennis-related products – and it’s possible the WTA’s decision could lead to more political repression.
“Unfortunately, the foreign pressure will also increase the fears of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) that social movements such as #MeToo pose a threat to the stability of the regime and must be cracked down more harshly,” she wrote.
Peng, 35, a three-time Olympian and former No.1-ranked doubles player was removed from the public eye after making sexual assault allegations a month ago against Zhang Gaoli, who retired from the Committee in 2018. Politburo, the height of political power in China.
His accusations, posted on social media, were wiped from the tightly censored Chinese internet within half an hour. Peng then disappeared from public view. The first #MeToo case to reach the political realm in China was not reported by national media; the online discussion on this subject has been heavily censored.
Indeed, it seems few in the country are aware of Peng’s claims or the fallout – or why they might see less tennis there next season.
Simon – who noted that he had the full support of the WTA board, players, tournaments and sponsors – said the tour would not host events in China until the government will not have agreed to conduct a full investigation into Peng’s allegations and will offer the WTA a chance to contact her directly. He said that could extend beyond 2022.
There are around 10 WTA tournaments a year in China, including the season-ending tour finals, which are expected to be held there for a decade.
“I don’t know how to give you a number on the actual effect, but it will definitely be millions of dollars. And, you know, time will tell, depending on what presents itself to us, how deep and how far it goes. I’ll just say it’s important, that’s for sure. This is going to be important, ” Simon told the AP. And this is something that we will have to deal with and go through. But I’m confident we’ll find a way to manage and work our way through it. There was barely a reaction from the Chinese government on Thursday to the WTA’s decision. Asked about the tournament’s suspension and Peng’s safety, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin declined to speak.
“We are always firmly opposed to acts that politicize sport,” Wang told reporters at a daily briefing.
The IOC announced on Thursday that it had organized a second appeal with Peng; there was also one on November 21. In either case, the IOC did not release any audio, video or transcripts, explain how the contact was organized, or say whether there had been any discussion of Peng’s sexual assault allegations.
The IOC said it “would keep in regular contact with her and had already agreed to a personal meeting in January,” shortly before the start of the lucrative Beijing Games on February 4.
After the IOC’s initial call with Peng, Mary Gallagher, Chinese expert at the University of Michigan, said, “The IOC’s response is not convincing to anyone except the Chinese government, which is the entity that he most needs to please. Diana Fu, who teaches at the University of Toronto and studies state control in China, said any communication Peng has had so far was likely scripted. it could act as a catalyst for the #MeToo movement.
(This story was not edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)