Even after China unleashed a viral pandemic on the planet, crashing the world economy and killing thousands, we all find ourselves in their debt. You see China has been magnanimous enough to let those who matter most in America finally begin to weigh back in on social and political issues: our beloved professional athletes.
Remember when China stopped NBA players from speaking about what was happening in Hong Kong? That now seems a long time ago. This past week has seen a flurry of professional athletes finally stand up and speak out against a racist government and police brutality. At an Atlanta rally in the wake of the shooting of Rayshard Brooks, Atlanta Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce spoke about the protest movements happening across the world. What about China? Well, when asked for his thoughts on the NBA trying to balance its economic ambitions with China as it pertains to ‘politics and public outrages over the country’s human rights abuses’, Pierce replied ‘I can’t speak to any of that. I’m still worried about Atlanta. That’s out of my jurisdiction. I have no comment on that.’ Oh. Let’s move on.
As protests carry on in America, authorities in Hong Kong went back to cracking the skulls of pro-freedom Hong Kong protesters and doing it while much of the world was distracted. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted ‘We believe in law and order in this Country. We condemn violence against property or persons. We will always stand for the right of Americans to peacefully protest and let their voices be heard.’ Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr rediscovered his political activism voice, generously loaned to him by the Chinese State, to lambast. ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ he said. ‘How do you have the gall to say this?’
Other NBA stars seemed to realize that China would allow them to speak about unrest in America, even if Hong Kong talk was off limits. To many cheers, LeBron James and other NBA players and entertainers formed a voting rights group.
It’s not just professional athletes who have suddenly found their voice on protests. Fashion icon brands Versace and Coach also spoke out in condemning the murder of George Floyd. Both companies were forced to issue apologies last August after referring to Taiwan and Hong Kong as countries. Their apology was to show respect for ‘the feelings of the Chinese People’ and ‘national sovereignty’.
So let me take this opportunity to once again thank China for allowing the smartest and most important among us, our celebrities, to speak out against the human rights issues China feels need addressing. Together we shall overcome.
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