Fans at the Australian Open will be allowed to wear T-shirts supporting Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai after Tennis Australia backed down from its previous stance prohibiting the clothing.
Peng, the former No. 1-ranked doubles player, wrote in a social media post in November that she was sexually assaulted by a former senior member of the ruling Communist Party, Zhang Gaoli. After the post, she disappeared from social media, raising concerns about her safety.
Footage from the Australian Open last weekend showed security and police requesting a fan to remove a shirt with an image of the player on the front and “Where is Peng Shuai?” on the back.
Tennis Australia said the shirts constituted “political messaging,” which is prohibited at the tournament.
“To ensure that the Australian Open remains a welcoming, safe and inclusive event for everyone, we have a longstanding policy of not allowing banners, signs or clothing that are commercial or political,” the organization said in a statement.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the woman involved in the aforementioned incident would be invited back to the tournament since it was deemed she wasn’t trying to cause a disruption, adding that organizers are open to spectators wearing the shirts as long as they don’t cause disruptions.
“If they want to do that, that’s fine,” Tiley said in a telephone interview. But “if anyone’s coming on site with the express intent of disrupting the comfort and safety of our fans, they’re not welcome.
“We can’t sell tickets in advance and have people come in and feel unsafe because there’s a large group of people that are using (the tournament) as a platform to espouse their views on whatever topic it is.”