The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), the governing body of men’s tennis, is facing criticism for not joining up with the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) to suspend tournaments in communist China as a protest against Beijing’s treatment of Peng Shuai.
A former doubles world number one, Shuai disappeared from public view after accusing former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her. She made the allegation via social media on Nov. 2. Her post was soon deleted and Shuai disappeared from the public.
Many suspected the Chinese regime was behind her sudden disappearance. A week later, Shuai appeared in public and insisted that she is alive and well. However, some believe Shuai continues to be pressured by Beijing to act along with its orders.
On Dec. 1, the WTA announced that all tournaments in communist China, including Hong Kong, would be immediately suspended in response to Shuai’s sexual assault allegations. On Dec. 2, the WTA received an email from Peng in which she “expressed her shock of WTA’s unfair decision to suspend all tournaments in China.” However, the WTA has decided to move ahead with the suspensions. Some have raised the possibility that the email might have been fabricated by Beijing.
In contrast, a day later, the ATP released a statement, saying that it will continue monitoring the situation.
“The response to those concerns has so far fallen short. We again urge for a line of open direct communication between the player and the WTA in order to establish a clearer picture of her situation,” ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said in a statement.
However, the ATP’s statement did not sit well with many players who were batting for more action against the Chinese regime. Former world number one Andy Roddick criticized the ATP. He said that the organization’s statement is “how to say a lot of words and say nothing.”
“Are we to understand that the @ATP would have made the same statement had the player been a male? An atp tour pro?!? Somehow I think not. #embarassing,” former tennis player Martina Navratilova tweeted on Dec. 3.
Beijing has slammed the WTA’s decision. The state-backed Global Times accused the organization of “setting a bad example” for the sporting world. The media outlet called the decision an “exaggerated show” that aims to leverage “Western public opinion against China’s political system.” Beijing “firmly opposes” the politicization of sports, said foreign ministry affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin during a press briefing.
Peng made video calls with the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to convince everyone that she is doing well in communist China. However, WTA Chairman Steve Simon believes these calls to be “very much orchestrated.” He stated that Peng knows how to reach the WTA and that “it’s been chosen” that she will only deal with the IOC.
“We definitely would like to have our own discussion with Peng and be comfortable that she’s truly safe and free and has not been censored, intimidated, or anything like that… We still haven’t been able to have that conversation to have the comfort that what we’re seeing isn’t being orchestrated, to date,” Simon told the AP. He added that the WTA wants a “full and transparent” investigation into the allegations made by Peng.