On Friday, one of the English Premier League's star players criticized China for its incarceration of Uighur ethnic-minority Muslims, and on Sunday, that player saw his team's game get yanked from Chinese broadcasts. As the weekend approached, Arsenal's Mesut Ozil, a Muslim of Turkish heritage, tweeted against the treatment of the Uighurs, including their internment; human rights groups say close to a million of them are being kept in camps in the country's northwestern Xinjiang region, per the Wall Street Journal. "Korans are being burned ... Mosques are being closed ... Muslim schools are being banned ... Religious scholars are being killed one by one," Ozil posted. After his comments, state broadcaster CCTV opted not to air Arsenal's Sunday game against Manchester City, putting on a tape-delayed broadcast of a different matchup instead.
The game was also pulled from two streaming services, effectively blacking out the game from being viewed in China. The Guardian notes many Chinese soccer fans were enraged by Ozil's criticism, setting Arsenal shirts on fire, calling for Ozil's firing, and labeling him a "dirty ant" online. The Journal points out that the hubbub bears similarities to China's tantrum after Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted out his support for Hong Kong protesters in October. Rockets games are still not being aired in China, and CCTV hasn't shown other NBA games this season, though viewers can still find the occasional game via streaming platforms. (An ex-NBA player was recently fined for not looking at the Chinese flag during the country's national anthem.)