Does sport still need China?

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Ultimately, the case showed how even the most conscientious organizations could see their plans undermined by Chinese politics, how any company could unwittingly become the vessel of an international feud.

“If you make both sides angry, it means there is no middle ground, which I think was significant,” said Dreyer, the Beijing-based sports analyst.

Like other observers, Dreyer suggested that the WTA’s position could potentially be a game-changer. But he also noted that it may have been easier for the WTA to challenge China than it has been for, say, the NBA, for two reasons.

First, because the pandemic had already forced the WTA to cancel its events in China in the near future, the tour was not necessarily losing large sums of money in the immediate future. (The permanent severing of ties with China would of course require the WTA Tour to replace tens of millions of dollars in revenue and prize money.) Second, because China has essentially wiped out any mention of Peng and the international outcry that As a result of this in its news and social media, the WTA brand may not have much success there. Many in China just don’t know about Peng or the WTA’s response.

“With the NBA, they were burning jerseys,” Dreyer said. “You don’t have that reaction against tennis.”

Certainly, the big sports leagues with deep and long-standing interests in China, barring an extreme turn of events, will not be leaving the market anytime soon. And some organizations continue to move all in.

The IOC, which will host the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing in February, has ignored all calls from critics for the organization to issue a statement on human rights violations in China, including the treatment of religious minorities in the western regions of the country.


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