Where is Peng Shuai? T-shirts will be fine at the Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Restrictions resulted in the removal of one spectator for wearing a T-shirt supporting Chinese tennis…

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Restrictions that led to the removal of one spectator for wearing a T-shirt in support of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai at the Australian Open have been overhauled following international backlash.

With reports of activists planning to distribute hundreds of shirts branded with the question “Where is Peng Shuai?” In the run-up to Saturday’s Australian Open women’s final, the message wasn’t hard to find.

Australian Open director Craig Tiley told The Associated Press that anyone wearing a Melbourne Park jersey will be accepted, as long as they don’t gather in large groups or cause trouble for other spectators.

“If they want to do it, that’s fine,” Tiley said in a phone interview. But “if anyone visits the venue with the express intention of disrupting the comfort and safety of our fans, they will not be welcome.

“We can’t pre-sell tickets and let people in and feel unsafe because there’s a large group of people who are using (the tournament) as a platform to endorse their views on any subject. “

Footage was shown last weekend of police and security asking a fan to take off a shirt with Peng’s picture on the front and “Where is Peng Shuai?” The back side has caused widespread condemnation, with some critics describing it as cowardly.

Tennis great Martina Navratilova, three-time Australian Open singles champion, tweeted: “How pathetic. @Wta stands pretty alone in this regard!!! ”

Tennis Australia initially responded by claiming that the suit violated the “political message” rule.

“To ensure that the Australian Open remains a welcoming, safe and inclusive event for all, we have a longstanding policy of not allowing inappropriate banners, signs or clothing. commercial or political,” the organizers said in a statement.

In a later statement, Tennis Australia said it understood “people have strong personal and political views on a range of issues.”

“The safety of Peng Shuai is our top concern. We continue to work with the WTA and the global tennis community to do everything we can to ensure her health,” the statement said. “Our work is ongoing and through the appropriate channels.”

Tiley said security staff followed the tournament’s procedures over the weekend but after a review, the woman involved in the incident will be invited back to the tournament as she will not be seen as attempting to cause trouble. tangled.

China has drawn international criticism following Peng’s almost complete disappearance from public view. She wrote in a social media post in November that she had been sexually assaulted by a former senior member of the ruling Communist Party.

Her accusations against former Deputy Prime Minister Zhang Gaoli appeared briefly on her verified social media Weibo in early November before being quickly deleted. Screenshots of the post were shared on the internet, sparking widespread concern about Peng’s safety.

Following the post, the three-time athlete and former mixed doubles champion appeared beside a tennis court in Beijing, waving and autographing oversized children’s tennis balls. The foreign branch of the state broadcaster also released an English statement attributed to Peng, withdrawing her accusations against Zhang.

But WTA chief executive Steve Simon last month questioned the legitimacy of the emailed statement while others said it only heightened their concerns about the safety of their devices. she.

The WTA has repeatedly called on China to investigate the 35-year-old Peng’s allegations and to allow tennis officials to speak directly with the former No. 1 doubles player and the owners of the tennis tournaments. Doubles titles at Wimbledon and French Open. .

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https://wtop.com/australia/2022/01/where-is-peng-shuai-shirts-will-be-ok-at-australian-open/ Where is Peng Shuai? T-shirts will be fine at the Australian Open

James Brien

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