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Peng Shuai situation explained: Serena Williams, WTA sound off on tennis star’s disappearance, allegations

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Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai hasn’t been seen for 16 days and counting after she accused a former Chinese Communist party leader of sexual assault, creating significant concern within the WTA and tennis community over her whereabouts. The former Wimbledon and French Open doubles champ claimed retired Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli forced her into sex three years ago in a since-deleted online post to the Chinese social-media site Weibo on Nov. 2.

The WTA has actively pressured China into confirming Peng’s safety and investigating her allegations, even threatening to pull its lucrative business from the country if those actions aren’t taken.  

Peng’s tennis peers have been equally supportive, with Novak Djokovic calling her disappearance “shocking” and Chris Evert describing the entire situation as “disturbing.” Billie Jean King wrote that she hopes Peng, a former world No. 1, is found safe while Alize Cornet added “Let’s not remain silent” with the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai. 

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The most prominent women’s tennis player on the planet, Naomi Osaka, tweeted that she is “in shock of the current situation” and is “sending love and light her way.” 

Serena Williams, the sport’s preeminent force long before Osaka, shared the same picture of Peng with an equally concerned sentiment. 

Here’s a chronological look at how the entire situation with Peng has unfolded, beginning on:  

Nov. 2: Peng Shuai makes sexual assault allegations against Zhang

In a 1,600-word post to Weibo, Peng accused the 75-year-old Zhang — a former leader within China’s Communist party — of pressuring her into sex around three years ago. Peng, 35, claimed the assault occurred after Zhang invited her to play tennis with him and his wife at their house, but she admitted she had no evidence. 

“I was so scared that afternoon,” wrote Peng, who claimed a guard stood watch outside the door while the assault occurred. “I never gave consent, crying the entire time.”

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Peng said she and Zhang became acquainted with each other while the latter was serving as Tianjin’s party boss from 2007-2012, and Zhang forced her into sex after leaving his post as China’s vice premier in 2017. 

“I know that for someone of your stature, Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, you have said that you are not afraid,” Peng wrote. “But even if it is like throwing an egg against rock, or if I am like a moth drawn to the flame, inviting self-destruction, I will tell the truth about you.”

The post was deleted within 30 minutes, and Chinese censors blocked search terms such as Peng’s name.

Nov. 14: WTA chief executive calls for investigation into situation

Steve Simon, WTA’s chief executive, requested a “full, fair and transparent” investigation into Peng’s allegations in a statement. At that point, no one had seen or heard from Peng for 12 days, prompting the hashtag #WhereIsPengShuai to spread across social media. 

“Obviously she displayed tremendous courage going public,” Simon told the New York Times. “Now we want to make sure we’re moving forward to a place where a full and transparent investigation is conducted. Anything else, I think, is an affront to not only our players but to all women.”

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Simon threatened to pull the WTA’s business from China if the country failed to properly investigate Peng’s allegations. China currently hosts 11 WTA tournaments and the tour finals in Shenzhen. 

While Simon couldn’t directly confirm Peng’s whereabouts or condition, he told the Times that several sources — including the Chinese Tennis Association — told him that she’s “safe and not under any physical threat.” Simon’s “understanding” was that she was in Beijing. 

Nov. 15: China stays silent on Peng Shuai’s allegations, disappearance

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijan said “this is not a diplomatic question” when asked about Peng’s allegations, adding he had “not heard of the issue.” The country, 13 days after Peng’s post, still had yet to acknowledge it. 

Nov. 17:  WTA questions legitimacy of Peng Shuai statement

An email allegedly sent from Peng on Wednesday claimed the WTA did not get her consent or verification before releasing its statement. It was Peng’s first public comments since her allegations, but some, including the WTA, had questions regarding the legitimacy of the statement. 

“The news in that release, including the allegation of sexual assault, is not true,” the email, which was tweeted out by China state-affiliated media China Global Television Network, read. “I’m not missing, nor am I unsafe. I’ve just been resting at home and everything is fine.” 

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Simon then openly questioned whether Peng was coerced into writing it. 

“The statement released today by Chinese state media concerning Peng Shuai only raises my concerns as to her safety and whereabouts,” Simon wrote. “Peng Shuai must be allowed to speak freely, without coercion or intimidation from any source.”

Peng has still yet to be seen since her social media post on Nov. 2. 

Nov. 18: Simon, WTA threatens to pull Chinese business

Simon doubled down on his threat to pull the WTA’s business from China, a country his organization has expanded in over the past several years, if it wouldn’t confirm Peng’s safety and investigate her allegations.

“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Simon told CNN. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.”

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“Women need to be respected and not censored,” he added.

China hosted 19 WTA tournaments in 2019 alone for a total of $30.4 million prize money. Shenzhen is slated to host the WTA Finals from 2022-2030 after doing so in 2019 for the first time. The 2019 Finals had a $14 million prize purse. 





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Stampeders beat Lions, both teams lock up playoff spots

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VANCOUVER — The Calgary Stampeders avoided a season sweep at the hands of the B.C. Lions with a defensively impressive 25-11 win at B.C. Place on Saturday.

The win ensures the Stampeders will go to the playoffs for the 17th year in a row.

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A spectacular 54-yard catch by rookie Jalen Philpot of Delta, B.C., set up the only major score of the first half, landing the Stampeders (9-5) on B.C.’s three-yard-line for a touchdown conversion by Ka’Deem Carey.

Calgary failed on its two-point convert attempt. Peyton Logan added a 19-yard touchdown run with 1:57 left in the fourth quarter, and Dominique Rhymes caught B.C.’s lone touchdown pass from Antonio Pipkin with 29 seconds remaining. Pipkin carried the ball across the one-yard-line for a successful two-point convert.

Calgary’s field-goal kicker Rene Paredes was good on four-of-five attempts, from 39, 33, 31 and 33 yards. He added a convert for 13 total points.

For the Lions (9-4), Sean Whyte extended his CFL field-goal streak to 13 with a 34-yard kick to get his club on the scoreboard with 24 seconds left in the third quarter.

Paredes kicked wide to the right on his first field-goal attempt of the game. That came just 2:08 into the contest — the Stampeders had marched down to the B.C. 41-yard line after opening the first quarter by recovering Paredes’ 11-yard onside kick.

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One week after grabbing a 31-29 overtime win over the Stampeders at McMahon Stadium, the Lions could not find a spark to ignite their offence.

In his first home start at B.C. Place after being acquired in a trade with the Montreal Alouettes on Aug. 19, quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was 12-for-24 in the air for 151 yards. He added 11 yards on the ground. Anthony Pipkin stepped in under centre late in the fourth quarter, going 4-for-6 for 66 yards and one touchdown throw.

Kicker Stefan Flintoft had a busy night for the Lions, punting for 417 yards.

The Lions also came out on the wrong side of the penalty tally. After last week’s thriller at McMahon Stadium included 215 yards in total penalties, B.C. was whistled for six penalties for 65 yards on Saturday. That included a critical major foul on Jordan Williams which gave Calgary good position near centre field before Philpot’s monster catch shortly before halftime.

A major foul for roughing the passer also negated an interception by T.J. Lee with just over three minutes left to play in the fourth quarter.

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As Calgary’s defence kept the Lions pinned in their own half of the field for most of the game, quarterback Jake Maier had a strong outing. He completed 27 of 33 pass attempts for 294 yards and added 14 rushing yards. The Stampeders finished with five penalties for 36 yards.

With the win, combined with losses this week by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Ottawa Redblacks, Calgary clinched its 17th-consecutive CFL post-season berth on the night Dave Dickenson coached his 100th career game with the Stampeders, improving his record to 70-28-2.

After the Lions won both matchups at McMahon Stadium for the first time since 2010, the Stampeders extended a winning record at B.C. Place that stretches back to 2016.

Despite the loss, B.C. also clinched its first playoff spot since 2018.

FOOT NOTES: Stampeders’ veteran offensive lineman Derek Dennis was taken off the field on a cart late in the first quarter after suffering a leg injury …Injured B.C. wide receiver Josh Pearson led the crowd in the singing of `O Canada’ before the game … The B.C. Football Hall of Fame inducted its Class of 2022 before Saturday’s game … The Lions also held their Salute to Amateur Football … Next week, the Lions will host the Ottawa Redblacks on Friday, while the Stampeders will be back at McMahon Stadium to take on the Toronto Argonauts on Saturday.

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College football Week 4 winners, losers, overreactions: Kicking blunders plague SEC teams, Oklahoma in trouble

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There’s one phrase that makes blood run cold from Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Provo, Utah: College kickers. On Saturday, the fortunes of four SEC programs were changed in an instant by two college kickers missing critical kicks in painful fashion. 

Arkansas had a manageable 42-yarder to beat Texas A&M for a second straight season. The Razorbacks out-gained the Aggies by more than 80 yards and needed just one swing of the leg to remain ranked in the top 10. Unfortunately, Cam Little’s kick improbably bounced off the top of the upright — a doink unlike any in recent college football memory. 

All Missouri needed was for All-American kicker Harrison Mevis to make a 26-yard field goal. Easy enough, right? Mevis nailed 20 of 22 field goals last season, including three from more than 50 yards. A 26-yarder is child’s play … except not against Auburn on the Plains as Mevis shanked the kick to the right and the matchup went to overtime. The game swung again after Nathaniel Peat fumbled an open touchdown at the goal line, and that was that. The Tigers are still searching for their first Power Five win. 

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Here are more winners, losers and overreactions that highlighted the Week 4 action around the country. 

Winners

Kansas QB Jalon Daniels: Start the Jalon Daniels Heisman campaign. He’s been that ridiculously good through the Jayhawks’ 4-0 start. Daniels completed 83% of his passes for 324 yards, 83 yards rushing and accounted for five touchdowns in an emphatic 35-27 win over previously undefeated Duke. The junior from Lawndale, California, has been the catalyst for a Kansas program that had not won four games in a season in 13 years. He deserves the lion’s share of the on-field credit.

Tennessee: The Vols let things get a little hairy in the last five minutes thanks to some quick Florida touchdowns, but the performance was more dominant than the 38-33 final score. This was a coming-out party for Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker, who threw for 349 yards, rushed for 112 yards and had three touchdowns in a win over Florida. This was just the second Tennessee win over Florida since 2004, and gives the Volunteers a great chance to enter the AP top 10 when the polls come out on Sunday. 

Losers

Miami coach Mario Cristobal: The Hurricanes earned some early credit for beating up cupcakes, but the last two weeks have been a disaster. Miami had 27 first downs against Texas A&M, the most ever in a game without scoring a touchdown. On Saturday, a 45-31 embarrassment against Middle Tennessee sent any Miami hype train off the rails. Once-promising quarterback Tyler Van Dyke was benched after two interceptions, but rushing for fewer than 2 yards per carry and surrendering 500 yards to Middle Tennessee is nothing short of a disaster. Cristobal can’t blame talent in that kind of loss — this is coaching. 

Houston: The Cougars needed to score 10 unanswered points in the final five minutes to survive a challenge from 2-2 Rice. The Owls led for much of the game as the Coogs committed 10 penalties and turned the ball over to give Rice a chance. After the game, Houston coach Dana Holgorsen expressed frustration to the Houston Chronicle. 

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“I’m tired of yelling at them. Tired of motivating them. Tired of all that crap,” Holgorsen said. 

For a team that was thought at one point to be a serious contender for the New Year’s Six, narrowly avoiding a 1-3 start isn’t bringing many warm feelings.

Week 4 Overreactions

Oklahoma isn’t winning the Big 12: The Sooners flew up the polls after dominating an easy schedule featuring Nebraska, Kent State and UTEP. However, Kansas State to open Big 12 play was a rude awakening. The Wildcats scored more points (41) than the Sooners surrendered all season (30) thanks to a five-touchdown performance by Nebraska transfer QB Adrian Martinez. Suddenly, Brent Venables’ task in Norman feels far less turnkey than it did after eviscerating the rival Cornhuskers. Considering the depth the Big 12 showed in nonconference play, there are no easy games remaining. 

Kansas State has a tiebreaker over Oklahoma. Road trips to TCU, Iowa State and Texas Tech could be hairy. Battles with Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma State remain. There’s too many speed bumps for the Sooners to make it to Arlington if this is the Oklahoma we’re getting in 2022.  

Wisconsin isn’t Wisconsin anymore: Between 2004 and 2017, Wisconsin was close to the most consistent program in college football. The Badgers went 141-45 and finished ranked in 13 of the 16 seasons, including five top-five finishes. Losing to No. 3 Ohio State was expected, but a noncompetitive 52-21 decision to fall to 2-2 suddenly brings up some existential questions. 

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The Badgers have finished ranked just once in the last five years under Paul Chryst. After the loss today, the Badgers have no ranked teams left on their schedule. It’s unlikely they can show enough to fight back into the polls. Additionally, Wisconsin has just one Rose Bowl since 2012. At one point, this was a program that could measure success by trips to Pasadena. 

Chryst went 34-7 in his first three seasons. Since 2017, he is 33-18 — a fine record but not one that satisfies the Wisconsin standard. Complicating things is the fact that Wisconsin likely has one of the most attractive coaching candidates in the nation on its staff in defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard. 



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Washington's Rome Odunze makes a SPECTACULAR catch vs. Stanford

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Rome Odunze’s amazing TD reception gave the Washington Huskies a 26-7 lead against Stanford. 



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