Australian Open to let fans wear Peng Shuai shirts after initial ban, backlash

·2 min read

After receiving backlash, the Australian Open is reversing course after prohibiting fans from wearing shirts in support of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.

Australian Open tournament chief Craig Tiley said on Tuesday that the tournament will no longer ban fans from wearing shirts that read, “Where is Peng Shuai?” according to the AFP’s Andrew Beatty.

The move comes days after a group of fans were asked to remove their T-shirts and a banner in support of Peng.

Australian Open asked fans to remove Peng Shuai shirts

Security asked a group of fans at the tournament in Melbourne on Saturday to remove their shirts that read, “Where is Peng Shuai?” as they apparently violated the tournament’s policy on political statements.

The fans were confronted by security and police officers, who told them that the tournament has “a rule that there can’t be any political slogans.”

Peng, 35, said in a Weibo post in November that retired vice premier Zhang Gaoli pressured her into having sex with him after he and his wife invited her to their home for a meal in 2018. Zhang is in his 70s.

Within 30 minutes, Peng’s post was wiped from Weibo, which is essentially China’s version of Twitter, and Peng then wasn’t seen for weeks. This led to intense backlash and concern from the sports’ biggest stars, something that hasn’t died down despite Peng resurfacing and walking back her accusations. She also insisted that she was safe, but concern for her safety hasn’t gone away.

The WTA eventually said it will pull out of China completely, something that will result in a massive financial loss for the Tour.

Naomi Osaka, like countless others, was asked about Peng at the Australian Open.

“I imagine myself in her shoes, and in that way, it’s a little bit scary,” she said. “You kind of want to lend your voice and you want people to, you know, ask the questions.”

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