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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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Aaron Rodgers to the Jets? Giants' free agency options & Mike McCarthy's future with Cowboys | Ask Jay Glazer

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Jay Glazer discussed whether Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers will head to the New York Jets, the New York Giants’ free agency options, and breaks down Mike McCarthy’s future with the Dallas Cowboys.



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Super Bowl LVII: Chiefs and Eagles will meet for title in Arizona

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Patrick Mahomes finally got the best of Joe Burrow. 

All he needed was a little shove.

Harrison Butker made a 45-yard field goal with 3 seconds left — after Cincinnati’s Joseph Ossai was flagged for a 15-yard penalty for shoving Mahomes after he was out of bounds — and the Chiefs beat the Bengals 23-20 in the AFC championship game to make it back to the Super Bowl.

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Kansas City will face the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona. 

The Eagles opened as a 1 1/2-point favourite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook.

There are no shortage of storylines: Kansas City coach Andy Reid goes against his old team — which he led to Super Bowl 39 — in a game that’s also the first matchup of Black starting quarterbacks in the Super Bowl with Mahomes and Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts. 

On top of that, there’s a brother-against-brother showdown between Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce and Philadelphia center Jason Kelce.

“Officially done being a Chiefs fan this season!! ” Jason Kelce tweeted immediately after the Chiefs won.

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The Chiefs have been making deep postseason runs on a regular basis ever since Mahomes came to town as the franchise quarterback. 

This was their fifth straight trip to the AFC title game and will be their third Super Bowl appearance in that span. They beat the 49ers for the NFL title in the 2019 season, but lost to the Bucs the following season.

The Eagles clobbered the Niners 31-7 in the NFC title game earlier Sunday. They’ve looked dominant in the playoffs so far, also beating the New York Giants 38-7 in the divisional round.

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Philadelphia is back in the Super Bowl five years after beating the New England Patriots 41-33 on Feb. 4, 2018. 

Now a mostly new generation of Eagles — led by coach Nick Sirianni and Hurts — will come to Arizona to try and win another title.

The Chiefs-Bengals game looked as if it was going to overtime before Ossai’s ill-advised play. Mahomes — who was playing on a badly sprained ankle — was running to get a first down in the final seconds as Ossai desperately tried to track him down. 

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Mahomes was out of bounds when Ossai gave him a shove, sending both players tumbling to the turf. The ensuing 15-yard penalty was enough to push Butker into field-goal range and the kick split the uprights.

A distraught Ossai sat on the bench with his head in his hands, well after the game was over.

The Bengals and Chiefs were playing for the fourth time in less than 400 days and Cincinnati had won the previous three meetings — all by three points. This one was decided by a field goal, too, and all Burrow could do was watch.

The Bengals lost to the Rams in last year’s Super Bowl and they just missed another chance at returning to the title game.

NO DRAMA IN NFC

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Oddsmakers thought fans were in for some close conference championship games. 

They’ll have to settle for a 50% success rate.

The NFC title game was a blowout. Niners rookie quarterback Brock Purdy was injured in the first quarter when Eagles linebacker Haason Reddick drilled his right arm on a play that was ruled a fumble. The Eagles recovered that fumble and the injury proved to be a game-changer.

With Purdy hurt, San Francisco turned to 36-year-old journeyman Josh Johnson, who couldn’t do much before eventually leaving with a concussion. Purdy came back into the game, but could barely throw, and the Eagles cruised to the win.

The 49ers dealt with quarterback injuries all season, losing Trey Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo before turning to Purdy, a seventh-round draft pick out of Iowa State. Purdy stepped into a starter’s role in December and won his first seven games before Sunday’s injury. 

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Here’s a few things to know about the upcoming Super Bowl:

WHAT’S THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE?

FEB. 5

Pro Bowl flag-football game, 3 p.m. EST, ABC/ESPN

FEB. 12

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Super Bowl LVII, Philadelphia Eagles vs. Kansas City Chiefs, 6:30 p.m. EST, Fox

RIHANNA AT HALFTIME

Rihanna will take center stage as the headline act for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show.

With sales of more than 250 million records worldwide, Rihanna ranks as one of the best-selling female artists ever. Her most recent album was 2016′s “Anti.” Rihanna last performed publicly at the Grammy Awards in 2018.

The singer said she turned down a similar opportunity for the 2019 Super Bowl that was ultimately headlined by Maroon 5. At the time, many artists voiced support for Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who protested police brutality against Black people and minorities by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

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Country music star Chris Stapleton will sing the national anthem, while R&B legend Babyface will perform “America the Beautiful.” 

PRO BOWL MAKEOVER

The Pro Bowl is getting a major makeover this year after the NFL eliminated its full-contact all-star game and replaced it with weeklong skills competitions and a flag football game.

The flag football contest is Feb. 5 in Las Vegas at Allegiant Stadium, one week before the Super Bowl.

The Pro Bowl debuted in January 1951 in Los Angeles and stayed there for 21 seasons before the game moved to different cities from 1972-80. Hawaii hosted from 1980-2009, and the game has had several homes in the years since, including Miami, Phoenix, Orlando and Las Vegas.

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“The game was kind of silly, I guess,” Saints two-time Pro Bowl offensive lineman Ryan Ramczyk said back in September when the news was announced. “Guys weren’t out there playing true football. Hopefully, there’ll be a lot of interactions with the fans and guys will get their opportunity to go out there and show some skills. I could see that being a good change.”

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Ohio State hires James Laurinaitis & Tennessee extends Huepel's contract | Joel Klatt Show

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Joel Klatt discussed Ohio State Buckeyes hiring former linebacker James Laurinaitis as a defensive GA. Joel believes that Laurinaitis can help transform the defense into a powerhouse like the offense is for wide receivers. He then discussed the Tennessee Volunteers giving Josh Huepel a contract extension after their 11-win season.



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