News & Politics

Women's Tennis Association Suspends Tournaments in China

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

After the Chinese government and the International Olympic Committee announced that tennis player Peng Shuai is (allegedly) safe, the Women’s Tennis Association has announced that it will suspend tournaments in China.

Steve Simon, WTA chairman & CEO, issued a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

He said, in part:

When on November 2, 2021, Peng Shuai posted an allegation of sexual assault against a top Chinese government official, the Women’s Tennis Association recognized that Peng Shuai’s message had to be listened to and taken seriously. The players of the WTA, not to mention women around the world, deserve nothing less.

From that moment forward, Peng Shuai demonstrated the importance of speaking out, particularly when it comes to sexual assault, and especially when powerful people are involved. As Peng said in her post, “Even if it is like an egg hitting a rock, or if I am like a moth drawn to the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you.” She knew the dangers she would face, yet she went public anyway. I admire her strength and courage.

Since then, Peng’s message has been removed from the internet and discussion of this serious issue has been censored in China. Chinese officials have been provided the opportunity to cease this censorship, verifiably prove that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or intimidation, and investigate the allegation of sexual assault in a full, fair and transparent manner.  Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation.

Simon and the rest of the WTA board agreed that a powerful statement needed to be made to express disappointment in how China is handling — or not handling — Peng’s situation:

As a result, and with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. 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. 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 wise move by the WTA, and others have noticed, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Related: Peng Shuai Saga in China: Bravo to Women’s Tennis, Unlike the NBA

Now that the WTA has made the right move, the NBA is on notice. Will they continue to kowtow to China, or will they take a similar stand?

I think we know the answer to that question.