When Courage And Cowardice Contrast: Sports and human rights collided

Recent weeks have been very telling about how the sports world responds to politics, who are the heroes and who is willing to Todt-y up to the mass murderers.

Peng Shuai is a professional tennis player from the PRC.  She was previously the #1 ranked doubles player in the world, so she’s a high profile player.  In October she reported how a member of the CCP had coerced her into having sex (read: raped her), after which the CCP arrested her and have held her in communicado except for carefully orchestrated propaganda.  They want to give the illusion that she is safe and free to move about, but the CCP has denied anyone direct contact with her except for those willing to participate in their scheme.

The Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) has taken the courageous stand to cancel ALL events in the PRC and Hong Kong until the end of 2022 (and possibly beyond then) until Peng Shuai’s freedom and safety are assured and her allegations of sexual assault are properly investigated.  The WTA now refuses to let players enter the PRC for the sake of their own safety.  This will cost the WTA tens of millions in prize money and endorsements, but the WTA has decided that principles matter more than principal.

Part of the statement from the official WTA website:

Steve Simon announces WTA’s decision to suspend tournaments in China

“When on November 2, 2021, Peng Shuai posted an allegation of sexual assault against a top Chinese government official, the Women’s Tennis Association recognized that Peng Shuai’s message had to be listened to and taken seriously. The players of the WTA, not to mention women around the world, deserve nothing less.

From that moment forward, Peng Shuai demonstrated the importance of speaking out, particularly when it comes to sexual assault, and especially when powerful people are involved. As Peng said in her post, “Even if it is like an egg hitting a rock, or if I am like a moth drawn to the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you.” She knew the dangers she would face, yet she went public anyway. I admire her strength and courage.

[. . .]

As a result, and with the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, I am announcing the immediate suspension of all WTA tournaments in China, including Hong Kong. In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault. Given the current state of affairs, I am also greatly concerned about the risks that all of our players and staff could face if we were to hold events in China in 2022.

Emphasis mine.  From The Guardian, December 3:

WTA does the right thing in standing up to China over Peng Shuai

When the Russian tanks roll westward, what defence for you and me? Colonel Sloman’s Essex Rifles? Or the 66-year-old chairman of the WTA? Well, there’s an unusual thing. It turns out there is at least one body in sport, and indeed in public life, with the guts, the spleen, the fuzzy green balls to make a stand in the face of power and basic questions of right and wrong.

It isn’t clear what the full implications might be of the decision by the Women’s Tennis Association to suspend its activities in China until it is satisfied over the treatment of one of its members, Peng Shuai, by the Chinese state.

For now there will be predictable noises off, from the suggestion this is the hand of state-led anti-China actors, to talk of sponsor pressure, of opportunism on a hot-button issue. This seems unlikely. First, because there is no money, no long-term power-play in standing up to China. The WTA has a 10-year deal for a season-ending tournament in Shenzhen. Scratch that then.

And second, because Steve Simon, the chief executive of the WTA, really doesn’t seem to give a crap.

“If we walk away from what we have requested, what we are telling the world is that not addressing sexual assault with the respect and seriousness that it requires is OK, and it is just not,” Simon said this week.

And there you have it, a most unlikely match-up: the governing body of women’s tennis against the governing global power of the coming century. A world of watch sponsorship deals and match etiquette regulations offering a long hard Paddington stare to one of the most powerful totalitarian states in human history. At a time when meaning is so often fogged, this feels like something real. Not to mention an act of leadership that shames so many sporting bodies by its clarity.

What has been the response of the ATP, the men’s tennis association?  Complete and utter silence for ten days, then a mealy-mouthed “statement” that did nothing to criticize nor condemn the PRC.   Retired players have spoken out against the ATP, but not current male players like Nadal and Federer who blather about “concern” but say nothing to condemn the PRC’s brutality nor the ATP’s cowardice.  The ATP won’t cancel any events, because money is more important than human rights.

ATP criticised for not joining WTA action on China in response to Peng Shuai safety concerns

The governing body of men’s tennis has been criticised for not joining the Women’s Tennis Association in suspending tournaments in China over the treatment of former doubles world No. 1 Peng Shuai.

The Association of Tennis Professionals, in a statement released a day after the WTA opted to take decisive action given concerns surrounding Peng and the safety of other players, said it will continue to monitor the situation.

Martina Navratilova and Andy Roddick were among the players to criticise the ATP’s stance.

“The situation involving Peng Shuai continues to raise serious concerns within and beyond our sport,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.



This past week has been a similar story within Formula 1.  The FIA elected to have a race in Saudi Arabia (read: let the mass murdering regime buy legitimacy and sell propaganda with money).

But it has not gone as expected because all of the drivers (well, maybe not Mazepin, a Russian backed by dubious oligarch money) support Black Lives Matter, equality for women, and full human rights for LGBTQIA people.  Several have openly stated their opposition to holding a race in SA, that it should have never been placed there.  Those who wear pride and rainbow flags on their helmets and racing suits have refused to remove them while in the country.  For all the talk about racing drivers being privileged and coming from money (because most are), this act of solidarity and decency says otherwise.

Lewis Hamilton says had ‘no choice’ over Saudi Arabia race as he condemns barbaric anti-LGBT+ laws

Lewis Hamilton has spoken out against Saudi Arabia’s anti-LGBT+ laws which he described as ‘terrifying’.

The Formula One star took pole for the country’s inaugural Grand Prix on Friday (December 3). But speaking to Sky Sports ahead of the historic race in Jeddah, the driver condemned the country’s homophobic laws which include the death penalty for acts of homosexuality.

“There’s prison time, death penalty and restrictions from people for being themselves, and I don’t believe in that,” Hamilton said. “Religions can change, rules can change, rulers can change those things. They have the power to.”

Hamilton also made note to emphasise he was not in the country by his own choice but rather because of his Formula One commitments.

“We don’t choose where we’re going, others have chosen for us to be here, so we have to apply the pressure on them to make sure that they are doing right by the people in those places, sparking conversations, creating that uncomfortable discussion that is needed in these places,” he explained.

“Do I feel comfortable here? I wouldn’t say that I do.

“But it’s not my choice to be here. The sport has taken the choice to be here.”

Lewis Hamilton made headlines last month after he wore a bespoke helmet designed by British intersex artist Valentino Vecchietti, which features the LGBT+ Progress flag, and is also emblazoned with the words “We Stand Together” and “Love Is Love”.

From the same item, this load of garbage:

The Formula One series has faced major backlash for holding Grand Prix races in Middle Eastern countries due to the their abhorrent stances on LGBT+ rights and other human rights issues.

However, also speaking to Sky Sports, Formula Oneboss Stefano Domenicali argued that the series’ presence in these countries casts a global spotlight on their antiquated laws, thus acting as a catalyst for change.

“As soon as these countries choose to be under the spotlight Formula One is bringing, there is no excuse.

“They have taken the route of a change.”

Apartheid didn’t end in South Africa because the all-white rugby team was allowed to tour.  It was protests and bans that prevented them from playing that helped end apartheid.  Domenicali is my age (he was born in 1965), and is old enough to know he’s talking out of his ass.  He and Jean Todt (pronounced “toad”) are rationalizing support for mass murderers and fascists for the sake of profit.

Why am I not surprised that it is Todt and Domenicali (two of those running the Ferrari team when Schumacher raced) who are the scum supporting the regime, putting races into places like Qatar and Azerbaijan where human rights don’t exist? They’re the FIA’s twin Max Mosleys (son of nazi sympathizer Oswald Mosley).

F1 under pressure to speak out against Saudi human right abuses

Human rights organisations have demanded that Formula One act to mitigate human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia as the sport prepares to race there for the first time this weekend. F1 is accused of being complicit in sportswashing for the regime and has been presented with a large amount of criticism of the state, much of which appears to be in direct contradiction of F1’s commitment to equality and diversity.

On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch and the Reprieve group wrote separately to F1 outlining their concerns. Amnesty International wa unequivocal in its criticism and the Codepink group has sent a letter to Lewis Hamilton, the world champion, signed by 41 organisations, requesting he speak to Saudi leaders to highlight human rights issues.

[. . .]

The Reprieve group has also written to Hamilton, who has been strident in his campaign for diversity and equality in F1, and recently said the sport had a duty to investigate and make a difference on human rights issues in the countries it visits. On Wednesday evening, Hamilton tweeted: “Equality for all.” Reprieve sent F1 a letter from MPs and peers including Lord Hain, vice-chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Formula One, stating their concerns over sportswashing.

[. . .]

Many drivers, including Hamilton and the four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, have been outspoken in their support for LGBTQI+ rights. Hamilton wore the rainbow colours on his helmet in Qatar and Vettel wore a T-shirt in support of LGBTQI+ rights at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Both are supporters of F1’s highly publicised We Race As One initiative, of which one of the stated aims is diversity and inclusion.

Amnesty has pointedly noted that same‑sex relations remain illegal in Saudi Arabia and are punishable by flogging or imprisonment. The group also claimed the authorities continued a “brutal crackdown” on critics of the government. Felix Jakens, Amnesty UK’s head of campaigns, demanded F1 take responsibility. “The Jeddah Grand Prix is yet another key moment in the Saudi authorities’ wider sportswashing effort,” he said. “It’s important that the glamour of F1 is not allowed to divert attention from the plight of Saudi women’s rights defenders who risk imprisonment for their work, or from the struggles of Saudi LGTBI people who live in a country where same-sex relations are illegal and punishable by flogging or imprisonment.