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When It Comes To China’s Human Rights Abuses, US Athletes Should Ignore Pelosi’s Orders To Shut Up And Play Ball

people holding Chinese flag
Image CreditOlympics / YouTube

Telling athletes to be scared of China’s power is exactly what the communist government wants to hear.


Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi instructed U.S. Olympic athletes this week to shut up and play ball instead of criticizing communist China’s track record of human rights abuses at the 2022 Beijing games, but her urgings are misdirected.

“I would say to athletes, you’re there to compete. Do not risk incurring the anger of the Chinese government because they are ruthless,” Pelosi said. “I know there is a temptation on the part of some to speak out while they are there. I respect that. But I also worry about what the Chinese government might do to their reputations, to their families.”

The Democrat insisted that the United States as a whole has a moral obligation to condemn China’s ways, saying, “If we do not speak out against human rights violations in China, because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out against human rights violations anywhere.” But she said the Olympics is not the time for vulnerable athletes to do that.

Corporate media pundits have also jumped on Pelosi’s bandwagon and called for U.S. athletes to stick to the sidelines when it comes to criticizing the CCP.

“But did you hear Nancy Pelosi use the word ‘ruthless’? I think if I was an athlete I just might pay attention to that,” CBS’s Gayle King said.

Pelosi justified her comments as an attempt to steer U.S. citizens away from harm and retaliation. Unfortunately, she simply gave the communist regime more reasons to see U.S. officials as weak and unwilling to act.

Telling athletes to be scared of China’s power is exactly what the communist government wants to hear. The CCP has repeatedly denied that it is committing genocide against the Uyghurs despite much evidence to the contrary. More recently, communist China conveniently disappeared Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai.

The CCP wants the U.S. to be afraid to do something to curb its power and influence. Even though the International Olympic Committee and corporate sponsors have already rewarded the bad actor with the host title and funding, China deserves to be penalized and publicly shamed for its actions. Already, the CCP is using its power to spy on athletes regardless of whether they speak out against the regime. At this point, speaking out against the communist tyrants is a necessary risk.

NBA center Enes Kanter Freedom is one of the few athletes who is willing to take that risk. For months, he has demanded that China loosen its grip on the Uyghurs and Tibet. For speaking out in support of human rights, his passport to his home country was revoked, his family shamed, and his credibility with the pro-China NBA shaken. And for his criticizing “brutal dictator” Xi Jinping last year, the Chinese internet yanked Boston Celtics games from the air.

Despite the threats and pushback he received, Freedom doubled down on criticizing China and calling for freedom from the CCP. Unfortunately, his boldness remains largely unmatched.

The same cultural influencers and athletes who promote LGBT ideologies, ally themselves with the financially twisted Black Lives Matter foundation, and performatively kneel during the national anthem in the name of racial justice are failing to denounce China’s very real and brutal human rights abuses. And Pelosi is right about one thing: Their silence on China should strip them of the “moral authority” to condemn human rights violations anywhere else.

NBA players specifically, Freedom said, can be deterred from denouncing the communist regime for fear of retaliation that could affect their shoe and jersey sales, but he said “there are more things important than money and business and our time.”

“I cannot just stay silent where my Muslim brothers and sisters are pretty much getting tortured and raped every day in concentration camps,” Freedom said during “The Wrong Choice: China and the 2022 Winter Olympics” discussion panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation on Monday. “I’ll be the one, I’ll be the bad guy. If you call it bad, I’ll be the bad guy. And just call it how it is. But I just wish that more athletes would join me. It is a lonely road. But I always say, you know, God is with me.”

Freedom shouldn’t have to walk a lonely road. China is openly committing genocide, stifling speech, and violating its citizens’ human rights. The communist regime’s actions deserve severe pushback not just from the U.S. government but from the U.S. athletes and others who have a platform. After all, the only way to protect the United States from further tyranny is to condemn it when others countries use it to strong-arm their way to the top.