LeBron, NBA comment on Rittenhouse trial, fall silent on missing Chinese tennis star
Peng Shuai went missing on Nov. 2 before resurfacing in video and photos last week
The NBA, Nike and basketball star LeBron James have remained silent on the disappearance and concerns surrounding Chinese tennis star Peng Shaui after she made sexual assault allegations against a former senior Chinese Communist Party leader.
Fox News reached out to the NBA’s press team, as well as to Upland Workshop - an advisory company founded and led by James’ spokesman and advisor Adam Mendelsohn - for comment on Peng’s disappearance and questions over her safety. Fox News did not receive responses.
A search of the Twitter accounts belonging to the NBA and James also show no comment about the tennis star. There are also no press releases on the NBA’s website about the matter.
The NBA and James, however, have both weighed in on Kyle Rittenhouse. The NBA released a statement on the matter last week following his acquittal.
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"Our thoughts are with the families of those whose lives were taken in this tragedy. The right to peacefully protest is a bedrock of our democracy and the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition remains committed to preserving that right for all. Any forms of vigilantism in our society are unacceptable," a statement from National Basketball Social Justice Coalition Executive Director James Cadogan said on Friday, which was shared on the NBA’s official Twitter account.
James also made headlines earlier this month after Rittenhouse took the stand during his trial and cried. The basketball star accused him of faking his tears.
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"What tears????? I didn’t see one. Man knock it off! That boy ate some lemon heads before walking into court," he tweeted on Nov. 10.
Kyle Rittenhouse was acquitted of all five charges he faced, including first degree homicide, related to the shooting deaths of two men and the injury of another. His attorneys argued he was acting in self-defense in August 2020 during the second night of civil unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin, sparked by the shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, by police.
Nike, which often weighs in on matters pertaining to the sports world and social justice initiatives, has also remained silent on Peng. Fox News reached out to the company’s press team about ongoing concerns following her disappearance and did not receive a response.
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The NBA, LeBron James and Nike have also come under fire in recent years for their ties to China. Most recently, Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter called out both Nike and James in social media posts saying China operates "SLAVE labor camps" and also wore a pair of shoes showing James bowing down to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Prominent feminist organizations such as the National Organization for Women and the "me too. Movement" have also not addressed her disappearance or responded to requests for comment on the matter.
Peng went missing on Nov. 2 after she publicly accused a former Chinese government senior official, Zhang Gaoli, of forcing her to have sex despite her refusals.
Her accusation on social media was removed within minutes and her disappearance sparked international outrage and concern aimed at the Chinese government. She resurfaced on Friday in photos circulated by an employee of Chinese state television and also had a video call with Olympic officials over the weekend, who claimed that she is safe.
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Peng "thanked the IOC for its concern about her well-being," the International Olympic Committee said in a statement.
But others have pointed out that photos and videos are not proof she is safe and free.
"Messages like these are meant as a demonstration of power: ‘We are telling you that she is fine, and who are you to say otherwise?’" Mareike Ohlberg, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, wrote on Twitter. "It’s not meant to convince people but to intimidate and demonstrate the power of the state."
"These photos and videos can only prove that Peng Shuai is alive, but nothing else. They cannot prove that Peng Shuai is free," Teng Biao, a Chinese civil rights lawyer, told the New York Times.
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The CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association also sounded the alarm on Peng’s safety. Steve Simon addressed the video of her published by China state-run media on Saturday, saying that while it’s reassuring to see her, the video was "insufficient" proof of her safety.
"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. As I have stated from the beginning, I remain concerned about Peng Shuai’s health and safety and that the allegation of sexual assault is being censored and swept under the rug," he wrote.
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Peng is just the latest person in China to go missing after criticizing the ruling party, with some people reappearing weeks or months later with little or no explanation.
"The authorities have never liked feminists or #MeToo," Lijia Zhang, the author of "Lotus," told the New York Times, adding that those who "dared to speak out" "have been silenced."