By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
Welcome to another edition of The Layup Drill. In the last column of 2021, we take a look at the world’s concern over Peng Shuai, an attack on Sunisa Lee, and an unfortunate death in Las Vegas.
Chinese tennis star disappears
The tennis community has expressed concern over Peng Shuai’s well-being after she alleged via social media that former vice premier of China Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her. In addition, she noted that she had a three-year consensual affair with him afterwards. After these accusations were made public on Nov. 2, the posts soon disappeared from Chinese social media. Also, Peng disappeared and was not reachable causing many to be concerned about her safety. The Chinese government did not report on or investigate the claims. In fact, they seemed to censor anything about the situation.
The Women’s Tennis Association issued a statement concerning Peng.
“The events concerning Peng Shuai are of deep concern.” It added, “The allegations must be investigated fully, fairly, transparently, and without censorship.”
The 35-year-old former number one doubles player in the world claimed that the 75-year-old Zhang forced her into a sexual relationship.
On Dec. 1, the head of the WTA announced that all WTA tournaments would be suspended because of concerns over the safety of Peng. The former tennis grand slam champ re-emerged after totally being out of reach for several days.
Photos and videos of the tennis star in Beijing were posted on social media and floated around by employees of the Chinese government. The circumstances of her disappearance and then her re-emergence without an answer as to where she went and if she was being held captive in plain sight arose.
“In good conscience, I don’t see how I can ask our athletes to compete there when Peng Shuai is not allowed to communicate freely and has seemingly been pressured to contradict her allegation of sexual assault,” said WTA Chairman and CEO Steve Simon in a statement on the organization’s website. Simon stressed the importance for people to speak out and had the full support of the WTA Board of Directors, as well as a “massive amount of international support.” The move was met with overall praise from the tennis community.
The International Olympic Committee stated it arranged a “personal meeting” with Peng. The growing concern of Peng being silenced regarding her accusations may become a huge story as Beijing prepares for the Winter Olympics this February.
Olympic medalist Lee pepper-sprayed in attack
U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Sunisa Lee reported that she was the victim of a hate crime in Los Angeles. While out on a night with friends, Lee stated that she was pepper sprayed and called racial slurs.
Lee was the first Hmong American to win a gold medal. She filled in for Simone Biles at the Tokyo Olympics and won the all-around individual gold medal in women’s gymnastics. She also earned another two medals in Tokyo along with her gold. Lee has enjoyed the spotlight, which has opened up opportunities for the Auburn University freshman. Notably, Lee was a celebrity contestant on ABC’s Dancing with the Stars.
Yet, her status meant little to someone in a passing car who yelled out slurs at Lee and her friends, who were also Asian. The group was also pepper sprayed as the car drove by.
“I was so mad, but there was nothing I could do or control because they skirted off,” she said in a recent interview.
UNLV student dies during charity boxing event
Nathan Valencia, a Filipino American college student at University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV), died on Nov. 23 after participating in an amateur boxing “fight night” in Las Vegas. The 20-year-old never had any proper training in the sport, but was participating in the boxing charity event organized by a local fraternity.
Valencia collapsed following his match and was taken to a local hospital. He died of internal bleeding several days after being hospitalized. His mother recalls how she did not want her son to participate, but he wanted to do it for charity. The family’s attorney noted that there were “multiple safety measure failures” that UNLV and the fraternity overlooked—one of which was the lack of medical professionals at the venue. There was also mention that the referee in the ring with the participants had no experience. In comparison, the state of Washington requires that there be medical professionals as well as an ambulance on site of a combat sports event.
The charity boxing event was an annual, school-sanctioned event, according to the family’s attorney.
Jason can be reached at email@example.com.