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The First Rule of All England Club: Don't Talk About Missing Chinese Tennis Stars While Wearing 'Where is Peng Shuai?' Shirts

Streeter Lecka. Getty Images.

The saga of missing Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai has taken yet another turn at Wimbledon. She, in case your goldfish memory has already moved onto other things, turned up missing for a while after accusing a high ranking CCP official of sexual assault:

Then the World Tennis Association, to their credit, launched a protest and put its money where its mouth is:

While other sports authorities who lack the WTA's integrity opted to play ball with the government that, by an incredible coincidence, just happened to be hosting their next money making event. The head of the International Olympic Committee was only to happy to claim he'd talked to Peng Shuai personally and she told him everything is positively super swell and only getting better. And he assured her he'd make darn certain he'd address any concerns she still has once they met at the Beijing Games. (With "… as soon as the money is deposited into my Swiss bank account" implied, if not definitively stated.):

But it seems the sportswashing of the entire (and probably tragic) mystery around Peng Shuai's whereabouts isn't limited to corrupt amateur sports agencies. Wimbledon is making its best efforts to ensure that her fate is not a topic of conversation at the All England  Club. 

I'll assume that under UK laws they can't arrest someone for walking around wearing a t-shirt with an interrogatory sentence on it and send them to a reeducation camp. So they're doing what they can in order to limit the damage. And arguably the biggest star in the history of the sport is having none of it:

Source -  Martina Navratilova has voiced her anger after activists wearing "Where is Peng Shuai?" T-shirts at Wimbledon accused security personnel of warning them against "political" messaging.

A group of four men representing the Free Tibet human rights organisation were challenged by security while walking around the All England Club grounds wearing the shirts.

They claim they were stopped and searched and told not to approach other spectators about Chinese tennis player Peng, with security adding that if there were more of them it would be a "problem".

"We were peacefully walking around the grounds, occasionally talking to people about Peng Shuai," Free Tibet representative Will Hoyles told Telegraph Sport. 

"We were getting huge support from people around the grounds. At one point security staff started questioning us and when we said we were just talking to people she told us not to approach people and that Wimbledon wants to remain politically neutral. …

An All England Club spokesperson said: "We can confirm that four guests were approached today by security whilst walking outside No 1 Court. These individuals are now enjoying their day with us and continue to be able to wear their T-shirts. Like much of the tennis community and people around the world more broadly, we remain very concerned for Peng Shuai and we continue to support the WTA's efforts."

To be clear, this isn't the event telling competitors they can't give political speeches or launch protests in the middle of center court. This isn't enforcing a rule where the line judge can't say, "Point to Mr. Djokovic. And now I'd like to give you my opinion of vaccine mandates …" When you're paying people money, you have some moral authority to dictate what they can and cannot do, just like you can make a rule they have to wear white. Your dojo, your rules. 

This is them saying that visitors can't ask a question on a t-shirt without getting the "I'm keeping an eye on you" thing from security.

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And they're being told who they can talk to what about. Not that they can't make a bunch of noise, disrupt the event like that Animal Rights guy who got his neck snapped by Joey Chestnut, or otherwise start a ruckus. Which is not just reasonable, it's the organizer's responsibility. This is those Free Tibet guys being told their conversations are going to be scrutinized. 

So presumably they can walk up to some other ticket holder and say, "I think the American version of "The Office" is better than yours," or "What you call 'chips,' we call French Fries," and they're good. But let the conversation swing around to the topic of how one of the best athletes in her sport is mysteriously missing and people fear for her well-being, and it's "Are we gonna have a problem, here?" 

And nice effort to walk it back by that spokesman. "We're worried about her the same as everyone else, and support the WTA. But having people walk around trying to start casual conversations about it? That's where we draw the line. I mean, save the politics for Parliament and for heaven's sake, stop spoiling everyone's good time!" 

Say what you want about this country and how we conduct our business (and obviously everybody is,) but this shit would never fly on our side of the pond. I defy anyone at the US Open to tell someone what kind of discussions they have outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium. There'll be hell to pay. The benefits of living in a country where people endured unbearable hardships, disease, deprivation and war, just to get away from exactly this kind of micromanaging from the people in charge. So I guess it's only fitting that this happened on the 4th of July. 

Giphy Images.