The Women’s Tennis Association followed through on their threat to cancel all tennis tournaments in China and Hong Kong over the disappearance of Peng Shuai, a player who had made sexual assault accusations against a former Chinese official.
WTA president Steve Simon joined a chorus of critics who accused the Chinese communist government of covering up any involvement they might have had in the disappearance of Shuai. The move will cost the organization hundreds of millions of dollars.
“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it. Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business,” said Simon previously.
“Women need to be respected and not censored,” he added.
The former world top-ranked women’s doubles player claimed in early November that former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli had forced her to have sex with him at his home three years ago. The post was immediately censored on Weibo by the Chinese government.
Shuai went missing for about a month until Chinese state-run media released video of her, but the WTA said they have not been able to speak to her, making many believe that the government is holding her against her will.
“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way. While we know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe and not subject to censorship, coercion and intimidation,” said Simon in a new statement.
“The WTA has been clear on what is needed here, and we repeat our call for a full and transparent investigation — without censorship — into Peng Shuai’s sexual assault accusation,” he added.
“None of this is acceptable nor can it become acceptable,” Simon concluded. “If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded — equality for women — would suffer an immense setback. I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”
The pointed response of the WTA is in stark contrast to the many American businesses who have gone out of their way to appease China in order to maintain their access to the country’s massive markets.
Among those are the NBA and basketball superstar LeBron James, who has harangued Americans to join and support the Black Lives Matter movement, but said it was none of his business when he was pressed to declaim the injustice done by the Chinese communist government.
“This is Steve Simon standing by what he said all along, and showing a lot of strength and backbone in doing that,” commented Ben Rothenberg, a tennis journalist.
Here’s more about the disappearance of Peng Shuai:
WTA suspends all tennis tournaments in China over Peng Shuai