Women’s tennis stance on China could prove costly

Peng Shuai of China returns a shot during the US Open on Aug. 29, 2019, in New York. (AP file photo)
China's Peng Shuai makes a forehand return to Japan's Nao Hibino during their first round singles match at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 21, 2020. The head of the women’s professional tennis tour announced Wednesday that all WTA tournaments would be suspended in China because of concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former high-ranking government official in that country of sexual assault. (AP file photo)

WTA President and CEO Steve Simon did not set out to lead the way for how sports should confront China when he announced that the women’s tennis tour would suspend tournaments there because of concerns about former Grand Slam doubles champion Peng Shuai’s well-being.

And based on initial reactions Thursday to the WTA’s groundbreaking stance, including from the International Olympic Committee — which is set to open the Beijing Winter Games in two months — along with the men’s tennis tour and International Tennis Federation, no one seems too eager to follow suit with the sorts of actions that would come with a real financial hit.

“I’m not looking to send a message to any other sport bodies or influence their decisions or evaluate their decisions. This is a WTA decision that affected the WTA athlete and our core principles,” Simon said in a video call with The Associated Press on Wednesday. “And I think it goes beyond that, into obviously something very, very sensitive on a worldwide basis for women, in general. So as the leading women’s sports organization, and having a direct effect on this, we’re focused on that.

“Now I will encourage everybody that has supported us to date — and those that haven’t — to continue speaking out and talk about this very important topic. “

The WTA is the first sports body to publicly and directly challenge China’s authoritarian government, which is a source of billions in income across sports based elsewhere, such as the Olympics, tennis, the NBA and golf.


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