PEOPLE in the public eye getting irate at the press for saying something negative about them is nothing new.

But last week, Christian Horner, the Red Bull Formula 1 boss, took being thin-skinned to new levels, boycotting Sky Sports because, basically, he didn’t like what they said about his team.

The comments on Sky were pretty mild. Reporter Ted Kravitz said Lewis Hamilton was “robbed” of the world title last year, a statement that understandably wasn’t exactly welcomed by anyone at Red Bull, least of all champion Max Verstappen, but it’s hardly controversial when all and sundry, including those at the sport’s governing body, the FIA, agreed that the decision-making on the final day of last season had been far from flawless.

But this raises a wider question about the sport media. Athletes and those connected with sport may not be in the same boat as the likes of politicians, who are duty-bound to be scrutinised by the media, but nevertheless, they are in a business that relies on media coverage to help promote their sport.

F1 in particular would not be the multi-million dollar business it is without the media.

So to have no appreciation that journalists cannot be merely fans with laptops is showing a complete misunderstanding for the entire operation. Without criticism, sports coverage is worth nothing.

Those on the receiving end are entitled to be aggrieved by what they deem is negativity towards them but to then try to censor what is being said is not only petty, but is to their own detriment.

Sports coverage that only includes positive coverage is worthless.

It is a tricky path that sport journalists are forced to tread. That Lance Armstrong got away with quite so much for quite so long is, at the admission of many of the journalists in the press pack at the time, due to their fear that if they wrote about suspicions of the American being a doper, they would be banned from his press conferences.

And how can a cycling journalist do their job without access to the most high-profile cyclist of all time?

Horner has now backtracked a little and said Red Bull’s boycott of Sky Sports is “indefinite”, rather than permanent.

It is likely, then, that sooner rather than later, he will realise his churlish, petty behaviour, is doing far more damage to himself and his team than anyone in the media.


A year ago last week, Peng Shuai disappeared from public view.

The Chinese tennis player had made explosive allegations that she had been sexually assaulted by former China Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, and she has barely been seen since.

The allegations kick-started what has been one of the most turbulent years women’s tennis has experienced.

For two weeks after Peng’s allegations, which were deleted from social media almost immediately after she posted them, she disappeared from public view, with no one able to contact her. She then showed up in state media in an appearance that only served to fuel more concern around her wellbeing.

The response from women’s tennis governing body, the WTA, was impressive; they suspended all business with China and withdrew all tournaments that were due to take place in the country.

This move came at a significant financial cost to the sport.

Since Peng’s allegations a year ago, there has been little to reassure anyone that she is, in fact, safe and well.

She has made several public appearances but all have only served to exacerbate concerns that she is, at best, being pressured by Chinese authorities to deny her allegations and, at worst, being forcibly coerced into toeing the party line by saying the assault did not happen and she is fine.

That the WTA took such a strong stance at the time was admirable and even more so that they have stuck to their guns.

The financial impact of withdrawing from China has been significant for a sport that had pinpointed the country as one of its primary targets for growing the game but it must be applauded for putting the welfare of one of its players above financial gain. Not all sports would have made such a morally sound move.

But the issue remains that, a year on, there is little reassurance of the welfare of Peng. She has not been seen since the Winter Olympics in February and all that appearance did was reassure the wider world that she was alive. Nothing more.

Where women’s tennis goes now is unclear.

The WTA chief, Steve Simon, says he has been assured she is “safe and comfortable” but that surely means little if it is coming from a Chinese state source.

As the Billie Jean King Cup Finals approach – they begin in Glasgow on Tuesday – women’s tennis is at a crossroads. Does it backtrack for the sake of financial gain? Or does it, as it has done for the past 12 months, remain resolute that doing the right thing is worth more than any amount of money?

As it stands, it is taking the latter option and for that, women’s tennis has shown itself to be the leader when it comes to putting its athletes first.