WTA President and CEO Steve Simon did not intend to set an example of how sports must take on China when he announced that the women’s tennis tour would suspend its tournaments in the Asian nation due to concern. on the well-being of Peng Shuai, former Grand Slam dating doubles champion.
And, based on early reactions Thursday to the unprecedented stance of the WTA, including that of the International Olympic Committee – which is set to open the Winter Olympics in Beijing in two months – along with the men’s tennis tour and the International Tennis Federation, no one seems eager to follow in the footsteps of the WTA and deal with the subsequent financial impact.
“I do not intend to send a message to any other sports body or influence their decision or evaluate their decisions. This is a WTA decision that affected a WTA athlete and our principles, ”Simon said in a video call with The Associated Press on Wednesday. “And I think it goes beyond this, to something very, very dedicated globally for women, in general. So the main organization of women’s sport, and directly affected by this, we are focused on it.
“Now, I will encourage everyone who has supported us thus far – and those who have not – to continue to speak out and speak out on this important issue. But as for what they have to do for their business interests and their reasons, they need to make their own decisions. And I do not pretend to influence it ”.
The WTA is the first sports body to openly and directly challenge China’s authoritarian government, which is a source of billions of dollars in revenue for other countries’ sports such as the Olympics, tennis, the NBA, and golf.
Audrye Wong, a political scientist who researches Chinese politics at the University of Southern California, doesn’t think Simon’s group will have company.
“It is a brave and commendable action by the WTA, but I doubt that many other sporting bodies or businesses will follow in the footsteps of the WTA,” Wong wrote in an email to the AP.
A hint came from the tennis world in statements issued on Thursday by the International Tennis Federation, charged with overseeing Grand Slam tournaments and other events around the world, and the ATP tour general director: None of they mentioned China or the suspension of the WTA.
Wong said Chinese citizens could be asked to boycott foreign tennis-related products – and the WTA move may lead to further political repression.
“Unfortunately, international pressure will also increase the fears of the Communist Party that movements like #MeToo pose a risk to the stability of the regime and should be repressed with greater force,” he wrote.
Peng, 35, a three-time Olympian and a former world number one in doubles, disappeared from public view a month ago after making sexual abuse allegations against Zhang Gaoli, who retired in 2018 from an influential commission. of the Communist Party.