On a recent episode of ESPN’s Around the Horn, commentator J.A. Anande defended the Beijing Olympics by comparing China’s gross human rights abuses against Uyghur Muslims to U.S. voter integrity laws. According to Anande, requiring people to show ID to vote in America is on par with mass genocide.
“Who are we to criticize China’s human rights records?” Anande said. “When we have ongoing attacks by agents of the state against unarmed citizens and we’ve got assaults on the voting rights of our people of color in various states in this country… it’s necessary to just shut everything out if you are going to enjoy the actual games themselves.”
Anande’s complete misinterpretation about what these red-state voting laws actually accomplish (no one is prevented from voting based on their skin color) is beside the point here. Uyghur Muslims in China are forced into re-education camps, sterilized, enslaved, and murdered. The fact that Anande would downplay this ongoing genocide in an attempt to defend China’s crimes by essentially saying “The United States is no better” is not only factually inaccurate but morally bankrupt. Yet these are the erroneous political narratives that ESPN peddles to its millions of viewers on a daily basis.
Unsurprisingly, ESPN is owned by Disney – a corporation that has shown deference to China on multiple occasions, often censoring and adjusting its content to adhere to CCP sensibilities. ESPN is one of the most popular sports news organizations in the world and while its viewership has been declining in recent years, likely due to it becoming more akin to “MSNBC with footballs” than pure sports coverage, the network still boasts 140 million international subscribers.
ESPN’s viewership among younger and more impressionable demographics has been on the rise in recent years, especially in the NBA. The NBA relies heavily on the Chinese market and often turns blind eye to China’s moral crimes in the name of profit.
Anande’s commentary certainly isn’t the first time ESPN has gone political and lied to its viewers. It’s also not the first time ESPN has downplayed China’s Uyghur genocide in favor of its corporate interests. More eyes on the Beijing Olympics means more viewers for ESPN.
While ESPN used to be a respected sports outlet, the network now uses its sports coverage as a shield to push radical progressive politics on its viewers. There was a time when sports provided people with common ground and a safe haven from polarizing political topics, but no longer.