Four men wearing “Where is Peng Shuai?” T-shirts at Wimbledon were stopped by security and warned about “political messaging,” leading to an public outcry.
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova voiced her anger over the situation, in which four men representing the Free Tibet human rights organization were told not to approach other spectators about the Chinese tennis star. In December, Peng accused a high-ranking official in the Chinese government of sexual assault. Soon after, she disappeared from the public eye, only to resurface later and walk back her allegations.
Peng has since retired from tennis.
“We were peacefully walking around the grounds, occasionally talking to people about Peng Shuai,” Free Tibet representative Will Hoyles told Telegraph Sport.
“We were getting huge support from people around the grounds. At one point security staff started questioning us and when we said we were just talking to people she told us not to approach people and that Wimbledon wants to remain politically neutral. Peng Shuai is still not free and WTA agrees. Wimbledon should be speaking out for her release and not trying to stop tennis fans discussing human rights.”
On Twitter, Navratilova wrote, “What? Not allowed to speak?!? WTH?”
What? Not allowed to speak?!? WTH? https://t.co/RRsTVhHMWd— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) July 4, 2022
What? Not allowed to speak?!? WTH? https://t.co/RRsTVhHMWd
The All England Club later confirmed the interaction.
“We can confirm that four guests were approached today by security whilst walking outside No 1 Court,” a spokesperson said. “These individuals are now enjoying their day with us and continue to be able to wear their T-shirts. Like much of the tennis community and people around the world more broadly, we remain very concerned for Peng Shuai and we continue to support the WTA’s efforts.”
In January, Tennis Australia came under fire after banning “Where is Peng Shuai?” T-shirts at the Australian Open. The ruling was later reversed.
The WTA has responded harshly to China’s response, pulling all tournaments out of the country until further notice.