England’s top-tier soccer Premier League has a lucrative $700 million, three-year deal in China for broadcasting rights that runs through 2022, its most lucrative overseas market.
Ozil, a German with Turkish roots, criticized China’s brutal treatment of mostly Uyghurs and other minorities in the western Xinjiang region in a tweet on December 13. He also criticized other Muslim countries for not standing up against the abuses, which include forced internment and torture.
Chinese state media on December 16 added to the backlash against Ozil.
A Global Times editorial lambasted what it called a “clownish performance” from Ozil and said he had abused his position as a public figure, adding that there will be “serious implications” for the Arsenal team, AFP reported.
There are at least 1 million Uyghurs and other minorities forcibly interned at camps where they undergo political indoctrination, torture, beatings, and food deprivations, as well as denial of religious and linguistic freedom.
The U.S.-based National Basketball Association (NBA) felt the wrath of China in October when the Houston Rockets supported the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, the semiautonomous region administered by Beijing.
The team’s general manager, Daryl Morey, had tweeted a seven-word phrase of support for the Hong Kong activists on October 4, setting off a firestorm: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
The tweet has since been deleted.
The Chinese Basketball Association subsequently suspended all cooperation with the team.
China is also a lucrative foreign market for the NBA, comprising about 10 percent of the league’s current revenue. The NBA in recent years has spent millions of dollars promoting itself there, building courts, giving free broadcasting rights, and bringing over stars for preseason games.