Many readers may be blissfully unaware of the ongoing NBA playoffs in the US, but I suspect many more in China are watching them along with me, and now I have an excuse to write something on a somewhat related note, so bear with me.
We’ve written before in this space about calls to boycott the 2008 Olympics for reasons tied to either human rights in China or involvement with unsavory regimes like that of Sudan. At the time, it was since-defeated French presidential candidate Francois Bayrou proposing a boycott of the Games. Now, an article in the New York Times’ sports section (reached through the always interesting Freakonomics Blog) tells us of Ira Newble, a basketball player previously known to me only as an obscure bench-warmer (read: not a very good player) for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Newble is trying to enlist support from his fellow pro athletes to talk up ditching Beijing next summer. Like Bayrou, Newble was moved by the Darfur situation, and the perception that “China holds the key” to improving it. From the article:
The result is a letter, signed by Newble and most of his teammates and released last week, that takes aim at China, which supplies the Sudanese government with money and weapons. China, in turn, is a major importer of Sudan’s oil.
The letter reads in part, “We, as basketball players in the N.B.A. and as potential athletes in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, cannot look on with indifference to the massive human suffering and destruction that continue in the Darfur region of Sudan.” It concludes with a plea to the Chinese government “to use all available diplomatic resources and economic pressure to end the agony of Darfur, and to secure access for U.N. peace support personnel.”
Predictably, “most of his teammates” does not include star Cavalier LeBron James, who is a marketing phenomenon in China and is said to be learning Mandarin in his spare time (scroll down). I’d be interested to see if this attracts the attention of Sudan-born Chicago Bull Luol Deng (who, by the way, has been a breakout star in these playoffs).
But as we’ve said before, the chances of any movement to boycott Beijing 2008’s success are fat indeed. What interests me, though, is how far word of this spreads, given the NBA’s popularity in China, and whether anything gets mentioned about it on a Chinese blog or fan site. If you see anything at all about this on the Chinese internet, let us know! (For easy searching, Newble’s Chinese name is 艾拉-纽贝.)