Arsenal match pulled from Chinese broadcast after star player’s criticism
BEIJING: English Premier League soccer team Arsenal Football Club Plc is facing repercussions after one of its star players, Mesut Ozil , made critical comments about the treatment of the Uighur minority in China. China’s state-run CCTV will no longer show a live broadcast of its match against Manchester City this weekend, despite the club’s attempt to disassociate itself from the remarks. Instead, it will show a pre-recorded game between Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal’s local rival, and Wolverhampton Wanderers.
This comes months after an NBA general manager’s defence of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong led to a backlash from China. Arsenal will now look to see if his comments will lead to further consequences. In Instagram and Twitter posts, Ozil accused Muslims of staying silent over the mistreatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in China, becoming one of the most prominent public figures to condemn Beijing on the issue. “Korans are burned. Mosques are closed. Their schools are banned,” said the Muslim player, who is often seen praying on the field, “but the Muslim community is silent.”
The club responded with a post on Weibo, where it has more than 5 million followers, distancing itself from the player’s comments.
“The content published is all Ozil’s personal opinion,” the team said. “Arsenal, as a football club, has always adhered to the principle of not involving itself in politics.”
Arsenal may have been attempting to protect itself from any bitter response from China, a country with at least 187 million soccer fans, based on Nielsen estimates. The club, which also operates a sports bar and restaurant in China, announced plans in early 2019 to expand its chain as it seeks to grow its fan base in the region.