Simon acknowledged that the tour may have little leverage to influence Chinese officials.
“I’m not sitting here thinking I’m going to solve the world’s problems by any means,” he said. “But what I am here to do is we have an athlete who belongs to the WTA family and has come out with serious allegations. We will be 100% supportive of that, and we want to see a full investigation into that.”
“If not and if they are not cooperating, we will have to make some decisions, we are ready to do it, and that is the best we can do. But we will not back down from this situation. It is the place for you.”
Chinese authorities routinely retaliated when faced with outside criticism. In 2019, NBA broadcasts on Chinese state television were temporarily suspended after Daryl Morey, a former Houston Rockets executive who is now with the Philadelphia 76ers, tweeted his solidarity with pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. Later, the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, said the fallout had cost the league hundreds of millions of dollars.
Last month, the Boston Celtics were too It was pulled from the Chinese internet After one of the team’s players, Anis Kanter, called Chinese President Xi Jinping a “brutal dictator” on social media.
“Look, I can’t talk about the decisions the NBA made,” Simon said. “Obviously they have different issues. But in this case, the WTA issue is about the potential sexual assault of one of our players. That is something that cannot be compromised.”
The WTA Tour has increasingly focused on the Chinese market over the past decade, culminating in a 10-year deal to stage the Tour Finals in Shenzhen that began in 2019. Chinese organizers plan to invest “more than $1 billion” over the course of the year, Simon said. The lifetime of the deal, including the cost of a new stadium, and they doubled the event’s prize money to $14 million.
But the 2020 finals, along with most Chinese championships, have been canceled due to the pandemic. None of the 11 scheduled WTA tournaments were held in China this year as China continued to restrict foreigners from entering the country. The WTA has been successful in filling in the blanks in the calendar with new or temporary events, often with smaller portfolios. The WTA Finals, which concludes on Wednesday, have been moved to Guadalajara, Mexico, where the prize money is relatively under $5 million, but the enthusiasm and crowds were huge.
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