WTA: Peng Shuai Videos, Call with IOC Don't Alleviate Concerns About Her Well-Being

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVNovember 22, 2021

FILE - China's Peng Shuai reacts during her first round singles match against Japan's Nao Hibino at the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 21, 2020. The editor of a Communist Party newspaper posted a video online that he said showed missing tennis star Peng Shuai watching a match Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021 as the ruling party tried to quell fears abroad while suppressing information in China about Peng after she accused a senior leader of sexual assault. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)
AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File

The Women's Tennis Association remains concerned about Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai even after a video call indicated she was safe.

"It was good to see Peng Shuai in recent videos, but they don't alleviate or address the WTA's concern about her well-being and ability to communicate without censorship or coercion," a WTA spokeswoman told Brenda Goh of Reuters.

Peng accused a former Chinese vice premier of China, Zhang Gaoli, of sexual assault in early November in a social media post that was later deleted. The China native wasn't seen publicly for several weeks, creating significant concern in the international community.

China state media released videos of Peng out with friends on Saturday:

Hu Xijin 胡锡进 @HuXijin_GT

I acquired two video clips, which show Peng Shuai was having dinner with her coach and friends in a restaurant. The video content clearly shows they are shot on Saturday Beijing time. <a href="https://t.co/HxuwB5TfBk">pic.twitter.com/HxuwB5TfBk</a>

The 35-year-old had a video call with IOC President Thomas Bach and several other Olympic officials on Sunday, where she reportedly explained that she is "safe and well," via the Associated Press

"I was relieved to see that Peng Shuai was doing fine, which was our main concern," athletes commission chair Emma Terho said of the call. "She appeared to be relaxed."

Questions still remain about the former world No. 1 doubles player's ability to communicate without state-sponsored media. 

The WTA also does not want to shift focus from the underlying issue.

"This video does not change our call for a full, fair and transparent investigation, without censorship, into her allegation of sexual assault, which is the issue that gave rise to our initial concern," the organization said.

Several prominent tennis stars have helped bring attention to this issue through social media, including Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka:

Serena Williams @serenawilliams

I am devastated and shocked to hear about the news of my peer, Peng Shuai. I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible. This must be investigated and we must not stay silent. Sending love to her and her family during this incredibly difficult time. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/whereispengshuai?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#whereispengshuai</a> <a href="https://t.co/GZG3zLTSC6">pic.twitter.com/GZG3zLTSC6</a>

NaomiOsaka大坂なおみ @naomiosaka

. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WhereIsPengShuai?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WhereIsPengShuai</a> <a href="https://t.co/51qcyDtzLq">pic.twitter.com/51qcyDtzLq</a>

The WTA has threatened to pull tournaments out of China over the matter.

There have also been protests about the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics scheduled to take place in Beijing that begin Feb. 4.