Basketball vs. Tennis

We all know the sad story of how the National Basketball Association has kowtowed to the Chinese Communist Party. The league has suppressed just about all support for Hong Kong democracy or opposition to the Uighur genocide. Chief among the kneelers has been Lebron James, a quisling if there ever was one. Most recently, Enes Kanter, one of the few players who have expressed opposition to the Chinese regime’s genocide and slave labor, brought down James’s wrath by wearing a pair of shows that depict Xi Jinping placing a crown on a bowing “King” Lebron.

If the NBA has been craven in its worship of Chinese money, the World Tennis Association, and the world of professional tennis generally, provide a sharp contrast. The issue is the fate of Peng Shuai. Peng has been a notable tennis player, once ranked as the world’s Number 1 doubles player. She won doubles titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and at the French Open in 2014, and reached the semifinals at the 2014 US Open in singles. She last played on the tour in February 2020.

Earlier this month, Peng did a lengthy post on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform, in which she accused a top official of the Chinese government, Zhang Gaoli, of raping her.

About three years ago, after Zhang retired from his role, he invited her over to his house to play tennis with him and his wife. She said he then sexually assaulted her while his wife stood outside guarding the door.

The story is more complicated than that, as Peng says she had an intermittent affair with Zhang over a period of years. But sexual misconduct by high-ranking Chinese officials is strictly forbidden, or at least news of such misconduct is forbidden. Peng’s post was deleted within 20 minutes, and she has not been seen or heard from since.

The Chinese Communists dummied up a silly email, purportedly from Peng, that retracts her accusation against Zhang and says she is “resting at home and everything is fine.” No one believes that she actually authored the email.

Meanwhile, the World Tennis Association and others have been trying to get in touch with Peng, without success:

[N]o one from the WTA, including officials and active players, had been able to directly reach Peng.

In an interview with Time, published on Wednesday morning, [WTA Chairman Steve] Simon said the organization had tried every method at its disposal to reach her.

“Voice, digital, tweeting,” he said. “WeChat. WhatsApp. Text. There are plenty of different messaging things we all use and are all able to communicate with. And none of those have produced a result as of this point.”

To its credit, the WTA is putting principle above profit:

[W]hen it comes to the WTA and China, there is a lot at stake. During its normal, non-pandemic-altered schedule, the WTA holds 11 tournaments in the country annually, including the year-end WTA Finals.

“If at the end of the day, we don’t see the appropriate results from this, we would be prepared to take that step and not operate our business in China if that’s what it came to,” Simon told the Times.

In strong contrast to what has happened in the NBA, major stars in the tennis world have stepped forward to defend Peng and demand information about her whereabouts and well-being. This major:

And it’s not just the women:

During a news conference at the ATP Finals, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic called it “shocking” and expressed concern for Peng and her family.

How hard is that? Sure, there could be a financial sacrifice, although I seriously doubt that the CCP will kick the tennis tour out of their country. I don’t think they would sever ties with the NBA, either, even if the league stopped censoring its players and owners. The pretense of being a normal country and a normal regime is too important to them, for the time being. But some people just don’t have much courage. Like Lebron James, apparently.

Latest word from the CCP is that Peng is alive and well and we will be hearing from her shortly. That implies that she is under some kind of guard. In any event, let’s hope it is true; if so, it most likely will be due to the public pressure that the tennis world has exerted.

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