Seth Udinski, FISM News
The 2022 Australian Open dominated sports news headlines for the last several weeks with the saga surrounding Novak Djokovic’s refusal of the COVID-19 vaccine and his eventual deportation from the country, preventing him from partaking in the tournament. The controversy has continued since the Open began, as demonstrators were seen wearing t-shirts bringing to the light the suspicious disappearance of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai.
Last year, Peng disappeared amidst reports that she had accused a powerful Chinese politician of sexual abuse. Many believe the Chinese government, notorious for reports of human rights abuses, silenced her. She later released a video claiming she was safe, but many believe she did this either under coercion or out of fear for her safety.
At the start of the Open last week, several fans appeared at the tournament wearing t-shirts reading “Where is Peng Shuai?” Video footage soon went viral depicting the forced removal of some of these fans by security officers at the tournament.
Interestingly, journalists can ask questions about the Peng Shuai situation to players, but fans, seemingly, aren't allowed to…. #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/SCqNlH2bOx
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshMedia) January 23, 2022
The Australian Open had originally backed this response, saying they would not allow signage that promotes “political messaging” in the tournament. Tournament officials released a statement saying,
To ensure that the Australian Open remains a welcoming, safe and inclusive event for everyone, we have a longstanding policy of not allowing banners, signs or clothing that are commercial or political.
In the last few days, tournament officials reversed their original position in light of this controversy. Fans are now allowed to wear these t-shirts in the arena so long as they do not cause trouble.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said in an interview,
If they want to do that, that’s fine…if anyone’s coming on site with the express intent of disrupting the comfort and safety of our fans, they’re not welcome. We can’t sell tickets in advance and have people come in and feel unsafe because there’s a large group of people that are using (the tournament) as a platform to espouse their views on whatever topic it is.
A group of volunteers for the Democratic Alliance Party have walked into the Australian Open donning “Where is Peng Shuai?” T-Shirts. It comes after Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley reversed his decision to confiscate them at the weekend. @australian #AusOpen pic.twitter.com/xqTBPnAGKp
— Angelica Snowden (@ang3snowden) January 25, 2022