The WTA is the first sports organization in the world to take a stand against China, announcing a suspension of their tournaments in the country for 2022.
The Chairman and CEO of WTA, Steve Simon, has dropped the proverbial hammer on China and their government amidst their efforts to recover the missing tennis star Peng Shuai and the fight for human rights, as the WTA announces the suspension of all tournaments in China, and Hong Kong.
Simon released a statement via the WTA website:
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.
Many, if not all, WTA players have spoken up about the whereabouts of Peng Shuai and her well-being after the alleged video of International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach conversing with Peng Shuai. Simon and the WTA board of directors have remained steadfast in their tracks of pursuing a transparent investigation, without censorship, into Peng Shuai’s allegations against China’s former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli. There has been no effort on the part of the Chinese government to put this issue to rest, forcing Simon to do the only thing that was right to do. Suspend tournament play for the WTA in China.
“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,” Simon said in his statement.
“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,” Simon said of the severity of the situation. The term “putting your money where your mouth is” has never been more true. The “human rights champion” that is known as the WTA has taken a giant leap towards uncovering the issues that many unfortunately face around the world, we can only hope that this is the first, of many dominos in the sports world to fall.
If the WTA is willing to sacrifice millions of dollars directly, by forgoing their travel schedule to China and Hong Kong, where are the other organizations that are not financially affiliated with China? Why are they not speaking up? Kudos to Simon and the entire WTA for doing what is necessary.