By Ken Reed

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has decided to suspend its tennis tournaments in China over how Chinese government leaders are treating star doubles tennis player Peng Shuai following Shuai’s recent social media post accusing China’s former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli of sexually assaulting her. The social media post was pulled down by Chinese officials and China has blocked the topic on its internet system. The Chinese government has not commented on her accusation and has not allowed WTA leaders to communicate with her. Supposedly, she’s had a couple calls with International Olympic Committee (IOC) president Thomas Bach, but no video or transcripts of those calls have been released and the concern is they’ve been staged calls orchestrated by the Chinese government.

The WTA’s decision to suspend its tournaments in China is an expensive one, but a principled one.

“We’ve had a lot success over there [in China],” said WTA CEO Steve Simon. “I think that when you look at this, though, there are too many times in our world today when we get into issues like this and we let business, politics, money dictate what’s right and what’s wrong,” explained Simon.

“We have to start, as a world, making decisions that are based upon right and wrong, period. We can’t compromise that and we are definitely willing to pull our business [with China] and deal with all the complications that come with it because this is certainly bigger than the business.”

Wow, in a world in which the NBA caves to China to preserve business interests despite Chinese human rights abuses and ongoing genocide; and a world in which star hoopster LeBron James, an outspoken voice on some social justice issues, keeps silent on Chinese abuses because his major sponsor, Nike, has sweat shops with abusive labor practices in China; the stance taken by Simon is both shocking and very commendable.

We are in the middle of the holiday season, a time in which we are reminded to put the wellbeing of other people above selfishness and greed. Holiday movies tell us principles should matter more than profits. In this year, the 75th anniversary of the release of the classic holiday movie It’s a Wonderful Life, we are encouraged to be more like the humanitarian George Bailey and less like the greedy Mr. Potter.

In today’s world, the WTA is acting a lot more like George Bailey than Mr. Potter.

Too bad the NBA, Nike and LeBron James seem to have a lot more Mr. Potter in them.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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