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The Biden administration announced on Monday that the United States will stage a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of China’s human rights abuses.
On CNN Tuesday, Michael Smerconish called the effort, which does not extend to Team USA athletes, “half-assed.” Smerconish is correct, the boycott is meaningless. However, former Olympic broadcaster Bob Costas said he believes that NBA players will see the symbolic boycott as a threat to their relationship with China.
“The NBA is up to its neck in China,” Costas said. “China is a huge sports market. Basketball is especially popular there. But they will put up with not even the slightest criticism.
“Back a couple of years ago when Daryl Morey, then the GM of the Houston Rockets, tweeted ‘Stand with Hong Kong,’ Rockets games were suddenly off the air for an extended period in China. And the Rockets are one of the most popular teams there because Yao Ming was the first big Chinese star in the NBA. More recently, Enes Kanter, who grew up in Turkey, spoke out against China. Same thing: Celtics games are gone.
“I guarantee you that the feed of this conversation [on CNN] is gone.”
Olympic broadcaster Bob Costas unloads in the Olympics. "What is with the IOC and their affinity for authoritarian nations?"
He and Michael Smerconish then call out the NBA for being in bed with China. pic.twitter.com/qayvD6zrgf
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) December 8, 2021
Costas then turned his focus to Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James:
“By the way, a lot of Nike’s goods that benefit the likes of Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James is made in China. And those outspoken individuals — and in many cases, I think millions of Americans would agree with their positions on domestic issues, but they are conspicuously mum when it comes to China, and no matter what the issues are here, and they are serious issues, they pale alongside what’s going on there.”
Costas was one of the first and last sportscasters to speak out against China. In 1996, Costas, while hosting the event for NBC, said China was the one nation that had the means and the motivation to replicate what the old Soviet Bloc and the Eastern Bloc did with their sports machine. Costas said there was then an effort, “orchestrated from Beijing,” to have him fired.
Credit to Costas and Smerconish for speaking out on this topic. No one at ESPN, CBS, The Ringer, Bleacher Report, or NBC Sports will cover LeBron, China, or Kaepernick honestly — so the cable news industry has to. And, surprisingly, CNN is doing so right now.