WTA's stance over China's Peng paves way for deal with Hologic

The WTA's stance in the case of Chinese player Peng Shuai has helped the organisation land a multi-year title sponsorship deal with American medical device maker Hologic.

Peng Shuai

Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai last month denied she ever accused anyone of sexual assault, adding that she herself had deleted her social media post in November that had appeared to make such a claim. But the WTA stuck to its demand for a formal investigation into Peng's allegations and an opportunity to meet with Peng privately to discuss her situation.   -  AP

The Women's Tennis Association's (WTA) stance in the case of Chinese player Peng Shuai has helped the organisation land a multi-year title sponsorship deal with American medical device maker Hologic, the New York Times reported on Thursday.

Peng's well-being became a matter of concern among the global tennis community when she appeared to allege that a former Chinese vice premier, Zhang Gaoli, had sexually assaulted her in the past. The post was promptly removed and she was absent from public view for nearly three weeks.

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In December, the WTA said it would suspend events in China, a decision which could cost the women's tour hundreds of millions of dollars in broadcasting and sponsorship.

The Hologic deal is the first for the WTA since its previous title sponsorship with cellphone manufacturer Sony Ericsson ended in 2010. WTA president Micky Lawler declined to disclose the terms of the deal but told the New York Times that it "comes at a very, very good time."

The WTA and Hologic did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment on the report. "I would consider it more a catalyst to the conversation than the deciding factor," Lisa Hellmann, a senior vice president at Hologic, was quoted as saying in the report.

"We've been watching very closely some of the brave and really high-integrity moves that the WTA has made almost by themselves.

"And that brought to our attention both the potential need they may have for title sponsorship, as well as really wanting to stand with and support the stance they are taking despite really negative impact on their business."

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Peng last month denied she ever accused anyone of sexual assault, adding that she herself had deleted her social media post in November that had appeared to make such a claim. But the WTA stuck to its demand for a formal investigation into Peng's allegations and an opportunity to meet with Peng privately to discuss her situation.

"For us it's the most important sponsorship of the WTA's history and probably the biggest in women's sports," said Lawler.

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