Unlike the NBA, which is unwilling to lose a dollar in China by speaking up about the treatment of Chinese citizens and residents, the Women’s Tennis Association says it’s fully prepared to lose a substantial chunk of money by pulling tennis out of China over the disappearance of Peng Shuai, who made sexual assault allegations against a top Communist Party official.
Steve Simon, the head of the WTA, has suggested that the organization is ready to give up funding it receives from the country to fund its WTA Finals and the WTA tournaments held in China throughout the season if Peng Shuai (ranked No. 192 in the world) isn’t accounted for. Such funding is estimated to be nearly $1.4 billion.
“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Simon said Thursday during an interview with CNN. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.”
Peng, 35, has not been seen since early November when she accused Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, 75, of forcing her to have sex with him after a round of tennis three years ago. Peng went even further and accused Zhang’s wife of being a co-conspirator who guarded the door during the attack.
Peng posted the claims on Chinese social media platform Weibo.
“Yes, aside from myself, I kept no evidence, no recordings, no videos, only the real experience of my twisted self. Even if I’m destroying myself, like throwing an egg against a rock, or a moth flying into a flame, I will still speak out the truth about us,” she wrote in the now-deleted post.
Simon says the WTA has been in contact with Chinese Tennis Association officials who claim Peng has been unharmed. But the tennis association boss can’t take their word for it.
“We have reached out to her on every phone number and email address and other forms of contact,” he told CNN. “There’s so many digital approaches to contact people these days that we have, and to date we still have not been able to get a response.”
Though Chinese officials have released an email purported to be from Peng walking back her claims, Simon isn’t backing down.
“Whether she was coerced into writing it, someone wrote it for her, we don’t know,” said Simon. “But at this point, I don’t think there’s any validity in it and we won’t be comfortable until we have a chance to speak with her.”
In contrast to the NBA shutting up and dribbling for its daddy Chairman Xi, tennis stars are speaking out about Peng’s disappearance. Serena Williams spoke out Thursday about Peng’s situation and added that “we must not stay silent.”
I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. #whereispengshuai pic.twitter.com/GZG3zLTSC6
— Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) November 18, 2021
Tuesday, Naomi Osaka spoke up and noted that “Censorship is never ok at any cost.” Osaka and Serena are both Nike athletes. Meanwhile, the NBA, which has shown zero interest (outside of Enes Kanter and Daryl Morey) in putting pressure on China over social justice, is silent while a female athlete has gone missing for posting a message claiming sexual assault.
Comrade LeBron and his fellow China bootlickers aren’t remotely in the mood to stand up to a government that seems to have made a tennis player disappear. Instead, the biggest social justice warrior in the sports world has been busy staying silent.
Enes Kanter of the Boston Celtics put it best Thursday when he showed off the shoes he’ll wear Friday night against LeBron’s Lakers.
“Money over Morals for the ‘King’,” Kanter tweeted Thursday, showing off shoes featuring China’s President Xi crowning LeBron. “Sad and disgusting how these athletes pretend they care about social justice. They really do ‘shut up and dribble’ when Big Boss [China] says so,” Kanter continued.
— NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ (@naomiosaka) November 16, 2021