Wednesday, May 25

Tennis / Australian Open. How ‘Where’s Peng Shuai’ t-shirts are wreaking havoc in Melbourne

This month of January 2022 is a terrible quagmire for Tennis Australia. The organizer of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam lifter of the year, has been singled out in the “case” Novak Djokovic, by being guilty, according to public opinion, of having granted to the Serbian player, world No. 1, a medical exemption of convenience.

Since then, the visa of “Djoko”, nine times titled in Melbourne, has been canceled after much turmoil, and serenity has returned to the State of Victoria. Until Sunday, and another unfortunate controversy for Tennis Australia.

The reason ? Asking fans to remove their t-shirts in support of Chinese player Peng Shuai, which activists have since promised to print en masse.

Peng Shuai made invisible in Melbourne

“Pathetic”, “lack of courage”, criticism rains down on the organizers of the Australian Open who do not want to see the hashtag “Where is Peng Shuai” anywhere: neither on the courts, nor even in the stands, that either on signs or clothing.

“Pathetic”, “lack of courage” … The organizers of the Australian Open sparked a controversy by asking supporters on Sunday to remove their t-shirts in support of Chinese player Peng Shuai.

‘Not allowed’ political messages defend themselves Tennis Australia

“Where is Peng Shuai? Neither on the courts of the Australian Open, nor even in the stands, on signs or t-shirts bearing the hashtag which went viral several months ago.

Here is the official pretext: the Australian Open “does not allow political clothing, banners or placards”, according to a spokesperson for the Australian Tennis Federation.

She was quick to say that “Peng Shuai’s safety” was her “primary concern” and that she continued “to work with the WTA and the global tennis community to obtain further clarification on her situation and (would) do everything (his) possible to ensure his well-being”.

Navratilova steps up

But the decision of “Tennis Australia” has provoked the indignation of several personalities in the field, who have, in fact, put more light on these t-shirts.

Czech-American Martina Navratilova, a tennis legend with 18 Grand Slam singles titles, called the decision “pathetic” on Twitter, saying “the WTA (was) on its own !!! »

“I find it cowardly, it is not a political message, it is a message in favor of human rights, she developed on the American television channel Tennis Channel. The WTA has been so strong on this subject… To capitulate like this, on the part of the Australians, I find it really weak. »

” Lack of courage “

The body that manages the women’s tennis circuit canceled all of its tournaments in China in December, calling for a transparent investigation into the player’s allegations of rape.

Frenchman Nicolas Mahut, eliminated in the first round of the doubles tournament in Melbourne, also protested on Twitter: “What a lack of courage! What if you had no Chinese sponsors? »

Willingness not to offend a Chinese sponsor?

The former world No.1 in doubles was referring to Luzhou Laojiao, a Chinese brand of alcohol, which has been one of the most important financiers of the Australian Open for several years.

Court N.2, one of the five largest in Melbourne, has also been renamed “1573 arena”, in reference to the year in which the Chinese company was created.

1000 t-shirts for the final

In response to the organizers’ ban, Australian human rights activist Drew Pavlou managed to raise more than 14,000 Australian dollars (more than 9,000 euros) on the GoFundMe platform in order to print the same t-shirts and distribute them to spectators ahead of the final of the women’s tournament.

We print 1,000 T-shirts and we’ll see how many spectators they can stop.

Pro-Hong Kong activist Max Mok on ABC

Asked at a daily press conference on Monday, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry said his country “has always been against the politicization of sport, which is unpopular and does not work”.

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