China Pulled Sunday’s Arsenal Match After Midfielder Mesut Özil Criticized Its Communist Government

The Chinese government got into a tiff with the NBA earlier this year following a social media post made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. A firestorm was set off when Morey posted a picture that expressed support for Hong Kong, where protests have been going on for months, and in response, a series of events occurred that led to impacted the working relationship between the league and the country.

Now, the English Premier League finds itself in a similar situation to the NBA. Arsenal midfielder Mesut Özil criticized the Chinese government over its treatment of Uighur Muslims in a post on Instagram, and while the club has worked to distance itself from what Özil posted (as of this publishing, his post has not been deleted from his Instagram account), the government has responded by pulling the broadcast of the Gunners’ match against Manchester City on Sunday.

Via The Guardian:

The Global Times Newspaper said on its Twitter account on Sunday that CCTV took the decision after midfielder Özil’s comments on Saturday had “disappointed fans and football governing authorities”.

Özil’s posts called Uighurs “warriors who resist persecution” and criticised both China’s crackdown and the silence of Muslims in response. “(In China) Qurans are burned, mosques were closed down, Islamic theological schools, madrasas were banned, religious scholars were killed one by one. Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet,” Özil, who is a Muslim, said in his posts.

Özil, a German Muslim of Turkish descent, has not seen much of the pitch for Arsenal this year due to tactical decisions made by the club’s now-former manager, but despite the controversy surrounding his post, he did start in the midfield on Sunday. There is no word on whether future Gunners matches will appear on television in China, and while the Premier League has declined to comment on this situation, Arsenal released a statement following Ozil’s post saying it is “apolitical as an organization.”