Two days after fans at the Australian Open were prohibited from wearing T-shirts that read “Where is Peng Shuai?,” Tennis Australia has reversed its decision to ban spectators from protesting.
A video shared to social media appeared to show officers confiscating the clothing, which referenced the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the well-being and whereabouts of the Chinese star who had accused a top Chinese leader of sexual assault.
“Yes, as long as they are not coming as a mob to be disruptive but are peaceful,” tournament director Craig Tiley said when asked if fans can continue their Peng protests, per ESPN's Jake Michaels. “It's all been a bit lost in translation from some people who are not here and don't really know the full view. The situation in the last couple of days is that some people came with a banner on two large poles and we can't allow that. If you are coming to watch the tennis that's fine, but we can't allow anyone to cause a disruption at the end of the day.”
Tennis Australia had previously cited a policy that barred fans from bringing onto the grounds or displaying political statements at the tournament.
A GoFundMe page titled “Hand Out Peng Shuai Shirts” has been created, with a goal of raising AU$15,000. The goal of the fundraiser is to “present major difficulties for Tennis Australia by printing off one thousand of these shirts and giving them out for free to spectators entering the women’s grand final.”
Players competing in the tournament have been asked about the ongoing situation during its early stages. Four-time major winner Naomi Osaka said it was important to maintain attention on the topic and keep Peng's safety and whereabouts front of mind.
“If I was in her position, I would want people to care for me, too,” Osaka said. “I imagine myself in her shoes and, in that way, it’s a little bit scary. But you want to lend your voice and you want people to ask the questions.”
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