Amid the Women's Tennis Association's threat to cease doing business with China if it failed to confirm the safety of Peng Shuai, the women's tennis pro who had disappeared after accusing a prominent former government official of sexual assault, a question emerges for professional sports leagues: Is doing business in China still worth it?
For most sports organizations, the WTA’s position remains an outlier. Sports organizations with multimillion-dollar partnerships in China — whether the N.B.A., England’s Premier League, Formula 1 auto racing or the International Olympic Committee — have mostly brushed aside concerns.
Some partners have acquiesced at times to China’s various demands. A few have issued humbling apologies. The I.O.C., in perhaps the most notable example, has seemed to go out of its way to avoid angering China, even as Peng, a three-time Olympian, went missing.
But an evolving public opinion may get harder for sports organizations to ignore.
...To some experts...the WTA’s extraordinary decision to confront China head-on might actually signal a turning point rather than an aberration.