US athletes have a moral imperative to take a stand at the Beijing Olympics, the New Republic’s editors assert: The American delegation should follow Lee Bollinger’s example of “spectacular rudeness” next summer, condemning the Chinese for their brutal human rights record. It’s unethical to be hosted by a country that tortures political activists, they argue, and be silent.
The Olympics can provide a rare opportunity to speak openly about injustice within Chinese borders; they also bring rare global publicity. To be sure, the editors allow, athletes are not statesmen, but the International Olympic Committee made Olympians into “political actors” by scheduling the Games in Beijing. And the famous Black Power salute at the 1968 games shows how emblematic unexpected political speech can be.