11/22/2021 – All Major Sports Leagues Should Prepare to Pull Out of China

Posted on Nov 22, 2021

source: https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/11/all-major-sports-leagues-should-prepare-to-pull-out-of-china/

By THE EDITORS November 22, 2021 6:59 PM

The case of Peng Shuai, a Chinese tennis star who went missing, should be a clarion call to the sports world to take a stand against the oppressive Chinese government.

For those who have not been following, the situation is this: On November 2, Peng posted on Weibo (China’s equivalent of Twitter) claiming that she was coerced into sex by the Communist regime’s former vice premier, Zhang Gaoli. The post disappeared within a half hour, and she was not seen publicly for weeks.

As we braced for another example of a professional sports league bending the knee to China, we were pleasantly surprised by the exemplary performance of Steve Simon, the leader of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA). Simon said he was willing to lose hundreds of millions of dollars of investments that had been made to build up tennis in China if that’s what it takes to make sure Peng was accounted for and that her allegations were properly investigated.

“We’re definitely willing to pull our business and deal with all the complications that come with it,” Simon told CNN last week. “Because this is certainly, this is bigger than the business.”

How refreshing when so few in the sports or corporate worlds see anything bigger than business when dealing with Beijing.

Over the weekend, the Chinese government launched a propaganda counteroffensive. Various stilted and dubious videos and photos were posted depicting Peng out in public around Beijing. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) claimed its president spoke with Peng and that she “explained that she is safe and well, living at her home in Beijing, but would like to have her privacy respected at this time.”

The photos and videos were all posted by employees of media controlled by the Chinese government. And the IOC, an organization with a history of corruption that is desperate to avoid controversy ahead of the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games, is hardly a reliable narrator. Even if the photos and videos are genuine and the IOC account is totally accurate, it does not answer the question of whether Peng is able to speak freely, without censorship and without fear of repercussions for her and her family, which seems highly unlikely. Nor does it address her accusations. This is the kind of “transparency” that guaranteed we’d never truly learn COVID’s origins.

The WTA, rightly, noted that the weekend’s propaganda push does not alleviate the organization’s concerns.

As admirable as the stance taken by the WTA is, it is likely not enough. There needs to be a broader campaign of pressure by the organized sports world against China.

The most dramatic step, of course, would be a decision to boycott the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing, which never should have been selected to host the games in the first place. As we wrote last year, “This magazine has long been appalled that Beijing is scheduled to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games. As a rule, the Olympics should not be held in police states.”

In the Wall Street Journal, Enes Kanter, the Boston Celtics center who has been taking a bold stand against China’s enslavement of the Uyghurs, has made a passionate case in favor of a total boycott. This is a fraught issue, since athletes who have trained for years for the Olympics would miss out on their chance to compete, through no fault of their own. When the U.S. boycotted the 1980 Moscow Olympics over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, over 200 of the 466 U.S. Olympic athletes didn’t make it onto the 1984 team. While a hard boycott is our preference, President Biden should at the very least announce a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Olympics, which he so far has merely said he is considering.

Beyond that, any U.S. sports leagues with business interests in China should join in solidarity with women’s tennis and also threaten to pull out of the totalitarian country. This includes, most prominently, the NBA, which has disgracefully allowed its multibillion-dollar business interests in China to get in the way of speaking out on human rights. Even worse, in 2019, the NBA infamously apologized to China when Daryl Morey, then the Houston Rockets general manager, tweeted, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” While the NBA has found the time to condemn “vigilantism” following the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict and weigh in on every other hot-button issue in the U.S., it has not taken a stand on behalf of Peng, presumably out of fear of financial repercussions. They have an opportunity to redeem the league here by showing even the NBA has its limits. While not as extensively entangled, both the MLB and NFL have established business ties to China, and they should also reconsider.

Unlike an Olympic boycott, were major U.S. sports leagues to pull out of China, it would make no difference to the game or the athletes. Players would still be able to compete and earn plenty of money in the U.S. and elsewhere. LeBron James, for instance, can still pursue his eleventh appearance in an NBA finals and all sorts of endorsement deals even if his league stops buck-raking in China, with the GOAT happily toeing the company line.

There has never been any doubt what the Chinese regime is, but the Peng case brings it home in a personal and powerful way. No one should be going out of his way to give this regime propaganda victories or bending to its will.