Is this the REAL reason the Australian Open banned Peng Shuai T-shirts? The $100MILLION question faced by Tennis Australia as organisers are slammed around the world

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Viral footage shows an Australian Open fan being ordered to remove her shirt The woman's shirt expressed concerns for Chinese tennis star Peng ShuaiOfficers tell the activist Tennis Australia does not permit 'political slogans' TA doubled down its decision to ban the shirt from the tournament crowdsBut organisers criticised as TA has a $100million deal with Chinese sponsor Australian Open renamed a court 1573 Arena after one of brand's products 'They don’t want to jeopardise the deal,' Sydney radio host Ben Fordham said 

The Australian Open has been blasted over the Peng Shuai T-shirt controversy after it emerged Tennis Australia has a lucrative $100million sponsorship deal with a Chinese liquor company.

Footage emerged over the weekend of tournament security guards ordering a spectator to remove a shirt that read ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’ on the back.

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Shuai, a Chinese tennis player, disappeared for three weeks and then recanted her claims after accusing one of the communist country’s senior politicians of rape.  

TA defended the shirt ban on Sunday, saying it ‘does not allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political’ at the Grand Slam.

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However Sydney radio host Ben Fordham accused organisers of trying to protect their bank balance, pointing to the open’s five-year sponsorship deal with Chinese liquor brand Luzhou Laojiao.



An Australian Open fan has been forced to remove a shirt expressing welfare concerns for tennis star Peng Shuai who disappeared after accusing a senior Chinese politician of rape

Global Tech News Daily

An Australian Open fan has been forced to remove a shirt expressing welfare concerns for tennis star Peng Shuai who disappeared after accusing a senior Chinese politician of rape

The deal is one of the biggest in the tournament’s history, with the open renaming a court inside Melbourne Park’s 1573 Arena after one of Luzhou’s signature products.

‘The Australian Open tennis has the largest Chinese sponsorship deal in history,’ Fordham said on his 2GB radio show on Monday.

‘They don’t want to jeopardise the deal or the money.’ 

The video has drawn criticism from overseas as well, with Human Rights Watch in New York also making the connection to the sponsorship deal.

‘Tennis Australia is preventing spectators at the Australian Open from wearing “Where is Peng Shuai?” T-shirts. One of the Australian Open’s “major commercial partners is Chinese premium liquor brand Guojiao 1573,” HRW director Kenneth Roth wrote on Twitter.

The five-year deal, reported to be worth $100million, was signed in 2018.

The southern Chinese company took up advertising space from Victorian winemaking giant Jacob’s Creek  – the tournament’s previous partner.

Luzhou Laojiao is known for its liquors made from Baijiu –  a Chinese grain-based spirit dubbed ‘firewater’ for its sharp and powerful odour.

Daily Mail Australia put a list of questions to Tennis Australia.  

Australia's Alex de Minaur is pictured playing a third round match on Saturday night at the Australian Open's 1573 Arena; the signage is pictured lining the court. The arena is named after one of Luzhou's signature products

Australia’s Alex de Minaur is pictured playing a third round match on Saturday night at the Australian Open’s 1573 Arena; the signage is pictured lining the court. The arena is named after one of Luzhou’s signature products

The Australian Open renamed a court inside Melbourne Park's 1573 Arena after one of Luzhou's signature products (pictured)

The Australian Open renamed a court inside Melbourne Park’s 1573 Arena after one of Luzhou’s signature products (pictured)

The criticism came after the footage of security guards and police demanding a spectator remove her shirt at Melbourne Park went viral. 

The activist’s shirt had a photo of Peng’s face and ‘wanted’ printed on the front. 

The man filming the confrontation can be heard asking the guard ‘what do you suggest she wear?’ after the woman was ordered to take off her clothing.

Instead of answering the question, the guard asks the man to also remove a similar shirt. 

A police officer then approaches and informs the pair that guests aren’t allowed to take ‘political slogans’ into the tennis tournament.

‘This isn’t a political message,’ the male activist responds.

‘This isn’t saying vote for the Liberal or Labour party. This is a female tennis player who is being persecuted and the Women’s Tennis Association has spoken out for her. We are simply [reiterating] what the WTA is saying.’ 

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai (pictured) disappeared from public view in November after levelling sexual assault accusations against a senior politician

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai (pictured) disappeared from public view in November after levelling sexual assault accusations against a senior politician 

The cop said he understood what the pair were saying, but ‘Tennis Australia sets the rules’. 

‘I’m not saying you are not allowed to have those views, but TA is allowed to confiscate your shirts and the banner,’ the police officers said, before the video cuts out.

Tennis Australia doubled down on its decision to ban shirts supporting Peng in a statement on Sunday.

‘Under our ticket conditions of entry we don’t allow clothing, banners or signs that are commercial or political,’ it said. 

‘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 wellbeing.’

Peng disappeared from the public eye for three weeks after she made a post on Chinese social media making the allegations on November 2

Peng disappeared from the public eye for three weeks after she made a post on Chinese social media making the allegations on November 2

A Victoria Police spokesperson said the force is ‘aware of a small number of protesters outside the Australian Open on Friday 21 January’.

‘As part of the conditions of entry to the Open, nothing politically motivated can be displayed,’ the spokesperson said.

‘Police engaged with the patrons in support of security, referencing the conditions of entry as they exited the venue.’

A GoFundMe Page was launched on Saturday to help raise funds for activists to distribute Peng Shuai shirts at the Australian Open, garnering more than $6,640 in 24 hours. 


Shuai vanished from public view for three weeks last year after making a post on Chinese social media platform Weibo on November 2 accusing former vice-premier Zhang Gaoli of raping her in 2017.

‘Why did you come and look for me again, take me to your house, and force me into sex? I have no proof, and it would be impossible for me to keep any evidence. You denied everything afterwards,’ Shuai’s post read. 

Within half an hour, the former world No.1 doubles player’s post was deleted and she disappeared for weeks, sparking worldwide concern about her safety. 

After widespread fears Shuai had been silenced, with the hashtag #WhereisPengShuai trending online, she resurfaced in December, sharing a video of herself, recanting her sexual assault claims. 

Despite her reappearance, the tennis community has remained alarmed about her welfare, with Australian stars voicing their concerns.

‘Hopefully it’s not too long until we see her back out here,’ Australian world No.1 Ash Barty said after her win on Wednesday. 

Australia's Ash Bary (pictured) says she has 'no idea' if silenced Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai is safe, admitting players have been told very little about her terrifying situation

Australia’s Ash Bary (pictured) says she has ‘no idea’ if silenced Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai is safe, admitting players have been told very little about her terrifying situation

Tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios also weighed in on the situation saying the sporting world is ‘obligated’ to speak up for the Chinese star, and that ‘something’s obviously not right there’. 

‘Obviously if that’s still something that’s ongoing it needs to be found out and kind of, I guess, we need more awareness about it. We can’t forget about her,’ Kyrgios said.

‘We have to use our platforms as athletes. I think we’re obligated to do that, we’re obligated to speak up and, you know, get to the root of what’s happening and why it’s happening.’

Women’s Tennis Association Tour chairman Steve Simon in December made the unprecedented move to suspend all competitions in China, saying the WTA was founded on equality for women and that Peng’s treatment is ‘unacceptable’.  

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