Asia/Pacific

Australian Open organizers to allow Peng Shuai T-shirts after backlash

Australian Open organizers said fans will be allowed to wear T-shirts of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai after receiving international backlash for removing a fan wearing the T-shirt. 

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told The Associated Press Tuesday that it is OK for fans to wear the shirts at the event as long they don’t gather in groups or create a disturbance for other fans. 

“If they want to do that, that’s fine,” Tiley told the newswire. “If anyone’s coming on site with the express intent of disrupting the comfort and safety of our fans, they’re not welcome.” 

“We can’t sell tickets in advance and have people come in and feel unsafe because there’s a large group of people that are using [the tournament] as a platform to espouse their views on whatever topic it is,” Tiley added. 

Video from the tournament taken this weekend surfaced showing security requesting a fan remove the shirt, which featured an image of Peng on the front and read “Where is Peng Shuai?” on the back, according to the AP. 

“That’s just pathetic,” tennis great Martina Navratilova wrote in a tweet. “The @wta stands pretty much alone on this!!! #WhereisPengShuai.”

In an earlier statement, Tennis Australia said the item of clothing breached its rule on “political messaging” but later they said they understood fans have strong personal and political opinions on issues, the AP reported. 

“Peng Shuai’s safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and the global tennis community to do everything we can to ensure her well-being,” the statement said, referring to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). “Our work is ongoing and through the appropriate channels.”

The woman wearing the shirt was allowed back into the venue after it was determined that she was not causing a disturbance, according to the AP. 

Peng, a former doubles champion, was reported missing after accusing in a now-deleted social media post the former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of forcing her to have sex with him despite repeated refusals. 

Peng’s whereabouts led tennis stars from Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka, Billie Jean King and Novak Djokovic to use their platforms to express their concern. 

In response, the WTA suspended its tournaments in China last month until an investigation is launched into the situation. 

Tags Australia australian open Melbourne Peng Shuai Peng Shuai

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