Australian Open perform u-turn on 'Where is Peng Shuai?' shirts after backlash

Australian Open perform u-turn on 'Where is Peng Shuai?' shirts after backlash

CRAIG TILEY, CEO of Tennis Australia has said that fans are welcome to wear T-shirts supporting Peng Shuai. The u-turn comes after tournament organizers said no commercial or political messages were allowed into the events. 

The t-shirts in questions involve Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, who went missing after detailing sexual misconduct against a former Chinese polictical figure back in November

A woman wearing a "Where is Peng Shuai" T-shirt was ejected from the event last week and because of this there has been a huge backlash.

High profile figures like Martina Navratilova said Tennis Australia bowed to China's influence.

Peng has since made several public appearances but there remain serious question marks regarding her freedom and the WTA has suspended all tournaments in China.

Craig Tiley, the chief executive of Tennis Australia and Australian Open tournament director, told the PA news agency the issue was not with the T-shirt was never the issue

]He said:

"We were on the journey at the very beginning with the WTA and that's because we're well connected in the region. We agree with the WTA's position.

"However, coming onto the site we have some terms and conditions that are pretty clear and that is, if you are coming on site with the purpose of disrupting the safety and comfort of fans, you're not welcome. But if you want to wear a T-shirt that says 'Where's Peng Shuai?', you can come on site, that's fine.

He also mentioned that the T-shirt has nothing to do with a political or commercial statement,

"There was a suspicion around the motivation of that individual coming on site but we've since contacted that person and told her that she's welcome to come on site, she's welcome to wear a T-shirt, but not bring a banner, because you can't bring banners on site.

"It doesn't have anything to do with a political or commercial statement. Our security people are trained to take a common sense approach, and I think that's in the interest of everyone."

On Monday, Peng supporters in Australia said they were planning to hand out 1000 'Where is Peng Shuai?' T-shirts at Melbourne Park this week after raising more than $10,000 on a GoFundMe page.

The Women's Tennis Association has suspended tournaments in China due to its concerns over Peng's safety and Tiley said TA backed their stance.

"Right at the beginning when Peng Shuai's whereabouts was not known we worked closely with the WTA to utilize our resources in the region, to support the WTA," he said.

"We were concerned about Peng Shuai well-being from the beginning and wanted to make sure she was okay. Obviously since that time, she's now made some statements, but we also support the WTA's position on it."