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'bigger than the business'

Women's Tennis Association threatens to pull out of China over Peng Shuai's disappearance

Women's Tennis Association CEO Steve Simon is threatening to pull out of China over the disappearance of tennis star Peng Shuai after receiving an apparently "staged statement" attributed to her.

Simon spoke with CNN amid growing concern for Peng, whose whereabouts have been unknown after she made an allegation of sexual assault against a former Chinese official. The WTA chair has been demanding assurances that Peng is safe and calling for an investigation into her allegations, and he told CNN that "we're definitely willing to pull our business" out of China and "deal with all the complications that come with it," adding, "This is bigger than the business." 

Simon also said that "we're at a crossroads with our relationship" with China, which he described as "very sad" because "we have some amazing relationships over there." But "we have to start, as a world, making decisions that are based upon right and wrong, period," he said. 

The WTA chair previously received an email attributed to Peng, which was shared by Chinese state media. But he said he doubted Peng actually wrote it, especially since the email walks back her sexual assault allegations. Simon on CNN said he doesn't believe this "staged statement" and that he still has "very strong concerns" about Peng. He also said he responded to the email but never heard back and "won't be comfortable until we have a chance to speak with her directly." 

Serena Williams became the latest major athlete to speak out about Peng's disappearance, tweeting Thursday that she's "devastated and shocked" over the news. "I hope she is safe and found as soon as possible," Williams wrote. "This must be investigated and we must not stay silent." Naomi Osaka also said this week, "I hope Peng Shuai and her family are safe and ok. I'm in shock of the current situation and I'm sending love and light her way."