Tennis Australia’s latest overreach has been to ban people at The Australian Open from wearing T-Shirts asking ‘Where is Peng Shuai?’
The resulting publicity and unanimous criticism about the heavy handed action by tournament security – including claiming that they have the legal authority to permanently confiscate banners with this burning question – has backfired to the detriment of Tennis Australia.
The justification for this action is that a condition of entry is that people do not wear apparel with commercial or political messages on them. I suppose that people wearing hats with beer logos on them (I personally own and wear a lot of those) would not be able to wear those hats.
And what about Peng Shuai? Would her own appearance at the Open, aside from answering this question, constitute a political message unacceptable to the organisers of the tournament?
I strongly suspect that The Australian Open’s zeal for suppressing freedom of political expression amongst those Australian citizens who are currently attending a tennis facility owned by the State of Victoria, whose taxpayers support the tournament, has got something to do with the fact that there are several very lucrative sponsorship deals involving Chinese companies. Those sponsors want their signage to be displayed prominently on TV to Chinese tennis fans back home – and the appearance of embarrassing questions amongst the live crowd could prove awkward.
So Tennis Australia is happy to spout empty platitudes about the welfare of Peng Shuai being their top priority, provided that it does not impact on the sponsorship dollars coming from communist China. It is probably not 30 pieces of silver but rather $30 million (my guess) which is the price for Tennis Australia’s commitment to the values which Australians value.
And in its own not-so subtle way, Tennis Australia is now Finlandizing, self-censoring itself and tennis fans so as to placate a communist tyranny. This is a serious matter, as this sort of behaviour, this sort of self-limitation on freedom of expression, is exactly what Communist China wants Australia to engage in as a price of trading with the PRC.
We need to call this behaviour out as soon as it occurs. It is both un-Australian and an insidious threat to our freedoms.