On ESPN, Professor Equates China Genocide to Sports Injuries

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ESPN and Northwestern should apologize, and the US should pass tougher laws against business in China

News Analysis

Is there a genocide going on in the United States? I don’t think so. But on Feb. 4, a professor from Northwestern University compared the genocide against the Uyghurs in China to sports injuries in the United States.

In the Xinjiang region of China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has subjected Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims to travel bans, detention in reeducation centers, forced labor, home visits, sexual assault, forced abortions, and forced sterilization. Uyghurs outside China get calls from police officials to return home, and if they fail to do so, bad things happen to their family members still in Xinjiang. This persecution by the regime, approved at the highest levels, including by Xi Jinping, have together led to a fall in the Uyghur population, and constitute genocide per the U.N. definition.

Genocide is the world’s worst crime, which the professor, J.A. Adande, minimized in his ESPN comments. Adande is the director of sports journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and should know better.

Asked about how to reconcile enjoying the Olympic Games in Beijing while the genocide is ongoing, Adande responded: “I think it’s standard in sports right now—you have to have a cognitive dissonance. You need to compartmentalize.”

He said, “We’ve never had a more enjoyable NFL Playoffs in this country and we’ve never had more people watching the playoffs, and yet it goes on amid the ongoing allegations against Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington Football Team, and, you know, the continuous concussion concerns, and now the concerns about diversity in the allegations and questions about competitive integrity even, all of that, and yet we’re still enjoying the games.”

Not only did the ESPN guest minimize the genocide. He spoke as if to muzzle criticism in the United States of China’s egregious human rights abuse.

“And who are we to criticize China’s human rights records when we have ongoing attacks by the 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. So sports—I think it is possible and it’s necessary more than ever to just shut everything out if you are to enjoy the actual games themselves,” Adande said.

Epoch Times Photo
Chinese flags on a road leading to a facility believed to be a reeducation camp where mostly Muslim ethnic minorities are detained, on the outskirts of Hotan in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region, on May 31, 2019. (Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images)

Thank goodness the ESPN host, Tony Reali, at least raised the initial question and called it a “genocide.” Many don’t have the knowledge—or the courage—to do so.

Reali then pushed back on the professor’s answer and bravely brought up the complicity of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Given that ESPN is owned by Disney, which is trying its best to increase business in China despite the genocide, Reali deserves some serious credit.

Reali said he “appreciates” what Adande said, but reiterated that “on China here, we are talking about human rights violations. We are talking about genocide. And the IOC chose China—specifically said ‘yes, we will go there’—while maintaining they are for human rights and things of that nature and that sports can conquer that.”

Adande doubled down. “Where can you choose that’s free? And look at some of the other recent hosts of the games, including Russia. … It’s very hard to find a country that isn’t problematic when it comes to human rights, including here.”


There were proposals, given the genocide, to move the 2022 Winter Games to Japan or Canada, both of which are democracies and have far better human rights than China. We know the United States is better off on human rights than China because the Chinese would love to move here, or to Europe, for not only the better economic opportunities, but for the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and right to own property. They are voting with their feet because those are the only two votes they have.

Conversely, almost nobody wants to move to China. There are no lines at the Chinese embassy for green cards that I know of.

When Fox News asked Northwestern University to comment, it did not respond. It should have.

Yes, professors should have freedom of speech and speak their mind. Adande should not be fired. That would be a form of cancel culture. But those at Northwestern with a clearer conscience, or those more educated on the atrocities in China, should speak up. Adande’s boss, and the university president, should apologize.

Even ESPN and Reali should apologize, as any good host would who has an insensitive, bordering on delusional, guest who distresses the others about a subject as serious as genocide.

But don’t hold your breath for an apology from any of these parties. All are making too much money in China.

In 2021, Disney made over $6.57 billion in the Asia-Pacific.

Northwestern is in the 95th percentile for most popular schools among international students, over 1,500 of which are from China. At more than $58,000 in tuition, that would be approximately $90 million a year from Chinese students alone.

Universities, like television networks, are businesses. So don’t expect them to take a strong position against China’s human rights abuse. Adande’s comments might even get them preferential treatment by Beijing.

What we need are stronger laws against doing business in countries like China, including Olympics and Disney business, that persist in genocide and the other worst forms of human rights abuse.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr


Anders Corr has a bachelor’s/master’s in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea” (2018).

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