WTA suspends tennis tournaments in China over Peng Shuai

Peng Shuai
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The head of the women’s professional tennis tour announced Wednesday that all WTA tournaments would be suspended in China because of concerns about the safety of Peng Shuai, a Grand Slam doubles champion who accused a former high-ranking government official in that country of sexual assault.

China was supposed to be the site of several tennis tournaments next year, including the season-ending WTA Finals.

A Nov. 2 post on Peng’s verified Weibo account said that former vice premier Zhang Gaoli forced her to have sex with him three years ago in his home despite repeated refusals. The post was quickly taken down.

“Unfortunately, the leadership in China has not addressed this very serious issue in any credible way,” WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon wrote in a statement. “While we now know where Peng is, I have serious doubts that she is free, safe, and not subject to censorship, coercion, and intimidation.”

Simon repeated his call for a “full and transparent investigation — without censorship” into Peng’s accusations.

“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,” Simon said. “Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.”

Tennis stars including Serena Williams, Naomi Osaka and Andy Murray expressed concern for Peng’s well-being and whereabouts two weeks ago, posting social media messages with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai.

“If powerful people can suppress the voices of women and sweep allegations of sexual assault under the rug, then the basis on which the WTA was founded — equality for women — would suffer an immense setback,” Simon said. “I will not and cannot let that happen to the WTA and its players.”

After the WTA announcement, the International Olympic Committee said it held a video call with Peng on Wednesday, its second one with her in the last two weeks. The IOC said the second call reconfirmed that Peng is safe and well.

The IOC repeated that it is using “quiet diplomacy” in Peng’s situation, saying, “given the circumstances and based on the experience of governments and other organizations, is indicated to be the most promising way to proceed effectively in such humanitarian matters.”

“We share the same concern as many other people and organizations about the well-being and safety of Peng Shuai,” the IOC said in a press release. “This is why, just yesterday, an IOC team held another video call with her. We have offered her wide-ranging support, will stay in regular touch with her, and have already agreed on a personal meeting in January.”

On Nov. 21, IOC President Thomas Bach said he spoke with Peng on a video call that day, and the IOC said in a statement that Shuai said she is safe and well, requested privacy and that she accepted a dinner invitation from Bach for after he arrives in China in January.

The Beijing Winter Olympics open Feb. 4.

IOC Athletes’ Commission chair Emma Terho and Chinese IOC member Li Lingwei, who the IOC said has known the three-time Olympian Peng for many years, were also on the Nov. 21 call.

The IOC did not release video or a transcript of either call.

Peng, 35, competed at the Olympics in 2008, 2012 and 2016. She was world No. 1 in doubles, winning titles at Wimbledon in 2013 and the French Open in 2014. She last played on the WTA Tour in February 2020.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Joel Embiid gains U.S. citizenship, mum on Olympic nationality

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Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid said he is now a U.S. citizen and it’s way too early to think about what nation he would represent at the Olympics.

“I just want to be healthy and win a championship and go from there,” he said, according to The Associated Press.

Embiid, 28, was born in Cameroon and has never competed in a major international tournament. In July, he gained French nationality, a step toward being able to represent that nation at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

In the spring, French media reported that Embiid started the process to become eligible to represent France in international basketball, quoting national team general manager Boris Diaw.

Embiid was second in NBA MVP voting this season behind Serbian Nikola Jokic. He was the All-NBA second team center.

What nation Embiid represents could have a major impact on the Paris Games.

In Tokyo, a French team led by another center, Rudy Gobert, handed the U.S. its first Olympic defeat since 2004. That was in group play. The Americans then beat the French in the gold-medal game 87-82.

That France team had five NBA players to the U.S.’ 12: Nicolas BatumEvan FournierTimothe Luwawu-CabarrotFrank Ntilikina and Gobert.

Anthony Davis, who skipped the Tokyo Olympics, is the lone U.S. center to make an All-NBA team in the last five seasons. In that time, Embiid made four All-NBA second teams and Gobert made three All-NBA third teams.

No Olympic team other than the U.S. has ever had two reigning All-NBA players on its roster.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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LA 2028, Delta unveil first-of-its-kind emblems for Olympics, Paralympics

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Emblems for the 2028 Los Angeles Games that include logos of Delta Air Lines is the first integration of its kind in Olympic and Paralympic history.

Organizers released the latest set of emblems for the LA 2028 Olympics and Paralympics on Thursday, each with a Delta symbol occupying the “A” spot in LA 28.

Two years ago, the LA 2028 logo concept was unveiled with an ever-changing “A” that allowed for infinite possibilities. Many athletes already created their own logos, as has NBC.

“You can make your own,” LA28 chairperson Casey Wasserman said in 2020. “There’s not one way to represent Los Angeles, and there is strength in our diverse cultures. We have to represent the creativity and imagination of Los Angeles, the diversity of our community and the big dreams the Olympic and Paralympic Games provide.”

Also in 2020, Delta was announced as LA 2028’s inaugural founding partner. Becoming the first partner to have an integrated LA 2028 emblem was “extremely important for us,” said Emmakate Young, Delta’s managing director, brand marketing and sponsorships.

“It is a symbol of our partnership with LA, our commitment to the people there, as well as those who come through LA, and a commitment to the Olympics,” she said.

The ever-changing emblem succeeds an angelic bid logo unveiled in February 2016 when the city was going for the 2024 Games, along with the slogan, “Follow the Sun.” In July 2017, the IOC made a historic double awarding of the Olympics and Paralympics — to Paris for 2024 and Los Angeles for 2028.

The U.S. will host its first Olympics and Paralympics since 2002 (and first Summer Games since 1996), ending its longest drought between hosting the Games since the 28-year gap between 1932 and 1960.

Delta began an eight-year Olympic partnership in 2021, becoming the official airline of Team USA and the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

Athletes flew to this year’s Winter Games in Beijing on chartered Delta flights and will do so for every Games through at least 2028.

Previously, Delta sponsored the last two Olympics held in the U.S. — the 1996 Atlanta Games and the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

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