July 1, 2022

tournament boss accepts Peng Shuai support t-shirts in the stands

After banning them, the organizers reversed their decision on Tuesday.

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The organization of the tournament has backtracked on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. Spectators at the Australian Open will be able to wear t-shirts to support the Chinese player Peng Shuai, who had accused former Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of rape before disappearing. Only condition: they must not have hostile behavior. Grand Slam boss Craig Tiley told AFP that security officers would judge on a case-by-case basis.

Organizers sparked controversy on Sunday by asking supporters to remove their t-shirts emblazoned with the slogan “Where is Peng Shuai?”, on the grounds that the Australian Open “n’author’[e] not political clothes, banners or placards”, according to a spokesperson for the Australian Tennis Federation.

The American of Czech origin Martina Navratilova, tennis legend with her 18 Grand Slam titles (in singles), had denounced a decision “pathetic”, on Twitter. “There have been some misunderstandings for some people who aren’t here and don’t really know the big picture,” Craig Tiley ruled on Tuesday. “The situation for the past two days is that some people have come with a banner on two big poles and we cannot allow that,” he added. “If you come to watch the tennis, that’s fine, but ultimately we can’t allow anyone to cause a disturbance.”

The about-face comes as local media quoted human rights experts as saying Tennis Australia’s stance could be illegal.

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

The pressure on the organizers was also maintained by the Australian government. “It’s very worrying and I think we should talk about these issues,” Defense Minister Peter Dutton launched on Sky News on Tuesday. “We don’t want to drag sport into politics, but it’s not a political issue, it’s a human rights issue regarding the treatment of a young woman who claims she was sexually assaulted “, he added.

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