Australian Open Fans Asked to Remove 'Where Is Peng Shuai' T-Shirts by Officials

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IV

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - JANUARY 05: The giant Australian Open logo is seen full of tennis balls ahead of the 2019 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on January 05, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)
Michael Dodge/Getty Images

Fans at the Australian Open were asked to remove shirts that read "Where Is Peng Shuai?" during Saturday's action in Melbourne, per ESPN's Matt Walsh.

Walsh posted the original video on social media showing officers confiscating the clothing:

Matt Walsh @MattWalshMedia

Interestingly, journalists can ask questions about the Peng Shuai situation to players, but fans, seemingly, aren't allowed to.... <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/AusOpen?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#AusOpen</a> <a href="https://t.co/SCqNlH2bOx">pic.twitter.com/SCqNlH2bOx</a>

A Tennis Australia spokesperson explained the decision in a statement to ESPN:

"Under our ticket conditions of entry we don't allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political. Peng Shuai's safety is our primary concern. We continue to work with the WTA and global tennis community to seek more clarity on her situation and will do everything we can to ensure her well-being."

The WTA released a statement on Monday about the decision, via Adam Zagoria:

Adam Zagoria @AdamZagoria

WTA statement on <a href="https://twitter.com/AustralianOpen?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@AustralianOpen</a> banning ‘Where is Peng Shuai T-shirts?’ <a href="https://t.co/ZMCl1GNiDa">pic.twitter.com/ZMCl1GNiDa</a>

Peng, a Chinese national who once climbed to No. 14 in the WTA singles rankings, said on social media in November that she was sexually assaulted by Zhang Gaoli, a former vice premier in the Chinese government.

After the initial post, the 36-year-old was not seen for several weeks and has only made limited public appearances over the past few months.

Peng later denied saying she was sexually assaulted.

Several players called attention to the situation on social media, while the WTA announced in December it would suspend its tournaments in China due to the ongoing situation.

The International Olympic Committee held a video call with Peng in November, but IOC spokesman Mark Adams backed off from guaranteeing her safety.

"We can't provide you with absolute certainty on anything," he said in December. "All we can do is do the best we can in the process that we believe is in the best interests of the well-being of the athlete."

The Winter Olympics are set to take place in Beijing in February.