Statement from Steve Simon, Chairman and CEO of the WTA
“When on November 2, 2021, Peng Shuai published an allegation of sexual assault against a senior Chinese government official, the Women’s Tennis Association realized that Peng Shuai’s message should be listened to and taken seriously. The women players in the WTA, not to mention the women around the world, do not deserve Less than that.
From that moment on, Peng Shuai demonstrated the importance of speaking out, especially when it came to sexual assault, and especially when powerful people were involved. As Bing said in her letter, “Even if it’s like hitting an egg with a stone, or if you’re like a butterfly drawn to a flame, and inviting self-destruction, I’ll tell the truth about you.” You’ll face it, however you go public anyway. I admire her strength and courage.
Since then, Peng’s message has been deleted from the Internet and discussion of this serious issue has been banned in China. Chinese officials have had the opportunity to stop this censorship, verifiably establish that Peng is free and able to speak without interference or intimidation, and investigate allegations of sexual abuse in a full, fair and transparent manner. Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way. While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, secure, and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation. The WTA has been clear about what is needed here, and we reiterate our call for a full and transparent investigation – without oversight – into the sexual assault accusation of Peng Shuai.
None of this is acceptable and cannot become acceptable. If powerful people can suppress women’s voices and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, the foundation on which the WTA was founded – equality for women – would suffer a massive setback. I will not and cannot allow this to happen to the WTA and its players.
As a result, with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I announce the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and she appears to have been pressured to contradict her allegations of sexual assault. Given the current situation, I am also very concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff might face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.
I have been pleased with the tremendous amount of international support the WTA has received for its position on this issue. To further protect Peng and many other women around the world, it is more urgent than ever for people to speak up. The WTA will do everything in its power to protect its players. And as we do so, I hope that leaders around the world will continue to speak out so that justice can be done for Peng, and all women, regardless of the financial ramifications.
I’m so sorry it got to this point. The tennis communities in China and Hong Kong are full of wonderful people we have worked with for many years. They should be proud of their accomplishments, hospitality and success. However, unless China takes the steps we have requested, we cannot put our players and staff at risk by holding events in China. China’s leaders have left the WTA with no choice. I still hope that our pleas will be heard and that the Chinese authorities will take steps to legitimately address this issue.”