President Biden Could Learn From The WTA's Resolve

President Biden Could Learn From The WTA's Resolve

The WTA is a global role model.

tippinsights Editorial Board

In the world of boycotts, the threat of boycotts, and counter-threats, there are three kinds.

The first is when the initial offending action is hushed, and the party meekly submits to the aggressor, voting heavily in favor of profits and ignoring its moral principles.

In October 2019, the Houston Rockets Basketball team's general manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image with the words, "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong." Morey's tweet was from his private account, but the backlash from China was extraordinarily swift. Although Morey deleted his tweet quickly, China used its market power to punish the NBA, suspending the broadcast of Rockets games in China. The Chinese Basketball Association put its relationship with the Rockets on hold.

The NBA caved, unwilling to place at risk its $4 billion Chinese franchise. An NBA spokesperson publicly threw one of their own under the bus by saying Morey's tweet was regrettable. Morey himself apologized in a follow-up tweet. "I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided. I hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA."

The second kind is when those who push for the boycott do it for PR reasons, knowing well that they can easily recoup lost revenues. Coca-Cola and Major League Baseball suffered no economic consequences when leaders protesting Georgia's new voting law advocated for a boycott of the All-Star game in Atlanta. The game simply moved to Denver. MLB sold the same number of seats, and Coca-Cola sold the same volume of soda at the new location.

The third kind is when the organization threatening a boycott risks becoming hurt financially, and there are strategic consequences in the long term. Yet, the party continues with the threat, standing its ground on moral values that define its brand.

When Chinese female tennis player and former Wimbledon and French Open Doubles Champion Peng Shuai put out a #MeToo sexual assault post against an influential member of the Chinese Communist Party's Standing Committee, she was instantly hushed by government censors. Soon, she went missing with no trace.

But the Women's Tennis Association, under the leadership of Steve Simon, has been steadfast in its criticism from Day One, with pointed and robust statements.

"Peng Shuai displayed incredible courage in describing an allegation of sexual assault against a former top official in the Chinese government. The WTA and the rest of the world need independent and verifiable proof that she is safe."

When a video surfaced that she may be safe, Simon issued another statement.

"While it is positive to see her, it remains unclear if she is free and able to make decisions and take actions on her own, without coercion or external interference. This video alone is insufficient. I have been clear about what needs to happen, and our relationship with China is at a crossroads."

Women's tennis is an increasingly popular sport in China. Li Na became the country's first-ever grand slam winner in 2011 (French Open) and later in 2014 (Australian Open). The WTA has continued to expand its presence in China and signed impressive deals worth over $120 million. Shenzhen was chosen for the next ten years as the location of the organization's prestigious year-ending tournament of champions, called the WTA Finals.

Yet, the WTA was willing to place its business model at risk to drive home the point that sexual assault and efforts to silence it have no place in modern life. "Our sport is focusing on the health and safety of Peng Shuai; business is secondary," Stacey Allaster, who was the WTA's CEO from 2009-15, told Reuters.

When President Biden met with Chinese President Xi Jinping for a four-hour virtual summit last week, the first meeting between the two leaders since Covid completely changed the world, the topic of the origins of the novel coronavirus, which has killed 770,000 Americans, never came up. This approach - of just ignoring reality - is probably the fourth kind.



TIPP Takes

Facebook Fake News Fuels EU Crisis

Belarusian ruler Alexander Lukashenko's people smuggling network uses front companies in the Middle East, clandestine money transfers, and fake Facebook reports promising easy entry to the EU.

Belarus

Social media posts in Arabic and Kurdish -- particularly on Facebook and Telegram -- have promoted fake news reports of migration to the EU through Belarus. Smugglers openly share their phone numbers.

Lukashenko has been flying people in from Turkey and the Middle East. Every day, around 400 people land at the airport in Minsk. Since July, more than 600 planes from Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, and Turkey have landed in Minsk. Belavia, the Belarusian state airline, operates most flights.

The European Commission has held intensive talks with around a dozen other airlines offering flights to Minsk. Turkish Airlines has agreed that it will no longer fly passengers from Iraq, Syria, or Yemen to Belarus.

A typical migrants' journey to Belarus begins in Istanbul's Aksaray district -- a meeting point for human traffickers. Belarusian visas cost up to $2,500 -- and the Turks, Syrians, Iraqis, and Lebanese handle the business in local "travel agencies" in Istanbul. A flight from Istanbul to Minsk can cost as much as $1,000; the journey can cost a migrant family around $14,000.

Once the migrants reach Minsk, companies linked to Lukashenko's presidential administration accommodate the refugees in hotels costing $20 or more per night for a bed.

Belarusian authorities organize the onward journey to the border, where troops cut through the fencing at night to allow migrants into Poland.

Once across the border, smugglers charge a further $2,000 per migrant for the journey to Germany.


Philippines Accuses China Of 'Harassment' In Disputed Sea

Tensions over the resource-rich waters have spiked in the past week after Chinese coastguard ships fired water cannons at Philippine boats delivering supplies to marines at Second Thomas Shoal in the contested Spratly Islands.

On Tuesday, the Defense Minister of the Philippines accused the Chinese coastguard of "intimidation and harassment" after Philippine Navy personnel were filmed and photographed unloading goods in the disputed South China Sea.

Manila expressed outrage over the attack, which forced the Philippine boats to abort their mission. But Beijing said the vessels had entered its waters without permission.

China claims almost all of the waterway, through which trillions of dollars in trade pass annually, with competing claims from Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam.

Beijing has ignored a 2016 ruling by The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration that its historical claim is without basis.


Taiwan, U.S. Hold 2nd Annual Meeting Of New Economic Dialogue

Taiwan and the United States held the second meeting of their new annual economic dialogue on Tuesday to forge closer ties as U.S. President Joe Biden's administration supports the self-ruled island that has come under increasing pressure from mainland China.

Taiwan's Minister of Economic Affairs told a press conference the five-hour virtual meeting focused on supply chain resilience, science and technology, digital economy, and 5G network security, Beijing's economic coercion, and others.


NASA Sending Spacecraft To Crash Into Asteroid

NASA is sending its DART spacecraft on a mission to collide with an asteroid in the first test of a technique that could one day be needed to deflect a dangerous space rock heading for Earth.

The spacecraft will crash into an object called Dimorphos to see how much its speed and path can be altered.

It's the first attempt to deflect an asteroid to learn how to protect Earth, though this particular asteroid presents no threat.

The DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) spacecraft will be launched on Wednesday atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

After it launches, DART will first escape the Earth's gravity, following its orbit around the Sun. It will then intercept the asteroid around 11 million km from Earth in September 2022.

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