Apologies to woke athletes — Nancy Pelosi doesn’t want you to “use your platform” in Beijing.
On Thursday, the House Speaker testified before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and discouraged America’s Winter Olympians from issuing political statements about China’s authoritarian regime.
“I would say to our athletes: you’re there to compete. Do not risk incurring the anger of the Chinese government, because they are ruthless,” she said.
“I know there is a temptation on the part of some to speak out while they are there,” Pelosi continued. “I respect that. But I also worry about what the Chinese government might do to their reputations, to their families.”
Once again it seems American free speech only exists within the parameters set by the Chinese Communist Party. Naturally Pelosi had nothing to say during last year’s Tokyo Olympics when US athletes were taking the knee in support of Black Lives Matter. Lucky for her that Megan Rapinoe and Lebron James can’t ski that well!
Pelosi’s comments appear to have proved a harbinger for the ghoulish authoritarian antics to come in Beijing. Already we’ve seen a Dutch reporter dragged away by police during his live shot, and the theatrics of Xi Jinping hand-picking a Uighur to light the Olympic torch at the opening ceremony this morning, which NBC’s Savannah Guthrie summarized as “an in-your-face response to those Western nations, including the US, who have called this Chinese treatment of that group genocide and diplomatically boycotted these games.” Coward.
When Cockburn first heard pundits drawing comparisons between these winter games and the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany, he thought the contrast was a touch overwrought and insensitive. But Pelosi’s words have given him pause for thought. Are American athletes expected to “do their talking on the field” as Jesse Owens did in ’36, undermining the grotesque racial politics of the Third Reich, and as the US men’s hockey team did through their Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid in 1980? What does Pelosi fear would happen if Team USA wanted to follow in the footsteps of Tommie Smith and John Carlos in ’68, and stand up for the Uighurs, or the Tibetans, or Hong Kongers, or Peng Shuai, or anyone who contracted the coronavirus because of Wuhan’s shoddy lab standards?
Cockburn has been a frequent critic of grandstanding sportspersons using the limelight they get once every four years to harp on about boutique issues — but America should be more incensed by the alternative.