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Aussie Open called out after fans kept from wearing Peng Shuai shirts

Martina Navratilova has accused the Australian Open of "being 'cowardly' and 'capitulating' to China" by "preventing fans from wearing T-shirts showing support for Peng Shuai," according to Tom Gillespie of SKY NEWS. After video emerged of security officials and police "telling fans to remove shirts with the slogan 'Where is Peng Shuai?' at the Australian Open on Saturday," a reference to the ongoing issues surrounding the Chinese tennis player, Tennis Australia "defended its stance by saying the tournament doesn't allow political statements." Navratilova accused Tennis Australia of "capitulating" to China and "putting sponsorship money ahead of human rights concerns." Navratilova: "They are wrong on this. This is not a political statement, this is a human rights statement. (Tennis Australia is) just really capitulating on this issue... letting the Chinese really dictate what they do at their own slam. I just find it really weak." Peng supporters in Australia said that they were "planning to hand out 1,000 'Where is Peng Shuai?' T-shirts at Melbourne Park this week after raising more than $10,000 (£5,287) on a GoFundMe page" (SKY NEWS, 1/24).

SPONSOR CONCERNS: In Melbourne, Greg Baum writes it seems the "sanction on unauthorised stuff is pretty liberally interpreted." Baum: "Politics, dress code, even a bit of ambush marketing, all get by the censor at Melbourne Park eventually, but not a question about the whereabouts of a tennis-playing Chinese national, who made an allegation of sexual misconduct against a former Politburo member and has not been seen or heard since, other than in official communiques." Liquor brand 1573, made by a company called Luzhou Laojiao, whose shareholders include state-owned enterprises in China, has a "huge sponsorship deal with the Australian Open" and its "highly authorised name and logo is all over the place at Melbourne Park, on the signboard of one court, the hoardings of another, on screens everywhere." Baum: "That's the sort of hugely authorised mega commercial consideration that you don’t mess with, not if you want it to go on for a few more years yet, and you certainly would go to every length not to embarrass by giving a platform to unauthorised non-people in non-authorised un-T-shirts and carrying un-authorised non-banners highlighting a human rights issue and a running sore for tennis and world sport generally" (Melbourne AGE, 1/24).

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