by Ben Sixsmith
Tuesday, 25
May 2021
Spotted
14:15

Another rich sportstar fails to stand up to the Chinese

John Cena's apology on Taiwan displays an all too familiar lack of courage
by Ben Sixsmith

For years, John Cena was the top star in World Wrestling Entertainment. As the world’s foremost professional wrestling brand was attempting to clean up its image and attract younger viewers, Cena, a charismatic, patriotic American hero, was the perfect fit. At the WWE’s 2011 “Extreme Rules” pay-per-view, Cena was the one to announce to a cheering crowd that US soldiers had killed Osama Bin Laden.

It is jarring, then, to see the wrestler apologising to the Chinese people, in Chinese, for the heinous crime of calling Taiwan a country. The horror! However can those poor souls forgive him?

Sadly, this is not surprising. Cena has always been known as a company man. He was a loyal representative of WWE chairman Vince McMahon, who wheeled Cena out for ambassadorial events around the world. Moreover, as a star of the umpteenth new film in the Fast and Furious series, Cena has no wish to endanger its success in the lucrative Chinese markets.

But why does a man, who has reached the uppermost peaks of his professions and is worth tens of millions dollars, feel obliged to submit to such a mealy-mouthed apology?

One should not throw charges of moral cowardice around lightly, but it is a shame to see people who are well-placed to defend a point of principle decide against it. No one is expecting Mr Cena to challenge Xi Jinping to a Hell in a Cell match at Wrestlemania, but politely refusing to apologise — or not refusing at all — for something inoffensive should not be too much to ask.

There is hardly a shortage of celebrities willing to offer their opinions on fashionable causes. LeBron James, for example, the great basketball player, has been such a vocal advocate of the Black Lives Matter movement that he published a photograph of the police officer who shot Ma’Khia Bryant — a 16-year-old girl who was attempting to stab a fellow teenager. When it comes to the Chinese, though, he was quick to censure intra-NBA criticism of its government. Again, the least he could have said was nothing.

China is not the only subject on which integrity has been found wanting. Before Harvey Weinstein was exposed as a sexual predator, as Kyle Smith mordantly explored in National Review, there was a conspiracy of silence in Hollywood surrounding his less than subtle misdemeanours. Once there were no professional repercussions attached to speaking out against him, of course, celebrities were queuing up to grandstand about #MeToo.

I use celebrities only as an example of a depressing fact about human beings. We refer to “f*ck you money” as being that mystical point at which one is rich enough to achieve blissful independence from the presumptuous demands of bosses, clients or critics. But almost no one achieves it. People with tens of millions of pounds in the bank want to get tens of millions more. People at the top of their professions have no wish to lose their exalted spots. There is no point at which desire lets conscience reign supreme.

As I say, I should not moralise too much about this. I have not been faced with very public moral choices and could not swear I would do better. But we should at least try. Rich and successful people are ten a penny, after all, but people with integrity are a rare breed.

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J Bryant
J Bryant
1 year ago

China is the enemy of the US. It no longer even tries to hide that fact. Yet nowadays prominent US athletes routinely support and praise its global agenda, apparently without fear of censure or consequences from fellow Americans.
This is what happens when a nation loses all sense of national identity and communal values, and when personal liberty, without responsibilities, and financial gain are the only legitimate goals in life.
How far we’ve fallen.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  J Bryant

He’ll soon be apologising for calling his country America if that is their game-plan

P Lang
P Lang
1 year ago

I recall the stance against Apartheid in the ’70s but next year, the 2021. Football World Cup will be in Qatar – that cradle of International sporting prowess (population <250k).
How many sportsmen will make inane anti racism statements in a state that underwrites Hamas and calls for the destruction of Israel?

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

WTF? Taiwan is another country. It has a different name, and everything. Just like Tibet.

Ah, Tibet. Tibet, Tibet, Tibet. Wonderful Tibet, that stood for so many centuries as a sovereign country at the roof of the world. Glorious Tibet. May we live to see its revival.

mark_andrew_schmidt
mark_andrew_schmidt
1 year ago

His apology was so over the top (“I am so, so, so, so sorry… I love the Chinese people…” that I wonder if it wasn’t tongue in cheek. A Taiwanese friend who watched it said he started by saying “sorry” using a Chinese phrase that is only used in Taiwan. Also, note that he didn’t specifically say in his apology anything about Taiwan’s status.
If so, I think it is too clever by half, and that it would be better if he said nothing, rather than dignify Chinese manufactured anger with a response. But even so, I wonder if his statement didn’t really mean, “You want an apology? OK, here’s an absurd caricature of a sincere apology.”
Thoughts?

Last edited 1 year ago by mark_andrew_schmidt
Chris Milburn
Chris Milburn
1 year ago

Interesting. I hope you are right!!

Colin Cook
Colin Cook
1 year ago

He missed an opportunity to speak up for the people of Taiwan, and also missed out on an opportunity to stand up against the autocratic Chinese government. But you can still say you like the Chinese people, because those that are pro-democracy also need to be spoken up for. I would not expect a sportsman to have the political cunning to be able to phrase such a reply though. Maybe next time, if he reads unHerd?

James Slade
James Slade
1 year ago

It’s often because we don’t know how debt these people are carrying. They might have assets valued at X millions but the are bought on mortgages like everyone else.

James Rowlands
James Rowlands
1 year ago
Reply to  James Slade

They earned x millions but borrowed x more……

Tim Lever
Tim Lever
1 year ago

Possibly he is just a dumb ass employee (albeit very well paid) who knows nothing about this particular issue and has simply done as his employers ask. Not everyone cares or gives a shit about politics.

Alex Delszsen
Alex Delszsen
1 year ago

Very sad our governments and corporations allow individual citizens to have to kowtow. Of course this man is now seen as a craven laughing stock, but better to humiliate him than to lose out on remunerative contracts and board and advising positions for the political and commercial elites, n’est ce pas?

Last edited 1 year ago by Alex Delszsen
Auberon Linx
Auberon Linx
1 year ago

Ben thinks that the apology is a sign of moral cowardice, and something due to pecuniary interest only. I am not sure that is right.

Years ago I had a Cypriot friend to whom I casually mentioned the Republic of Macedonia. His eyes glazed over as in a frosty tone he asked me if I actually meant Skopje. I had not been aware previously over the name controversy. After finding out what it was about, I absolutely failed to stand up for the silly pretensions of the Slavic inhabitants of a part of the Balkan peninsula to Hellenic heritage. I did not particularly care about their cause, and I did care about my friend’s feelings. So, on a matter indifferent to me, I went along with his preferences.

Back to the China-Taiwan controversy – it is a fact that most people in the West do not know or care much about it. When they get involved, it is mostly a knee-jerk reaction against China, which they see as an enemy. In their heart of hearts, Taiwan is mostly seen as Chinese anyway, and it can be argued that Taiwan is actually more China than People’s Republic of China. Why would it be a sign of moral cowardice to avoid losing hundreds of millions of dollars over a cause you do not believe in?

When it comes to NBA players expressing suspiciously pro-Beijing views, I think it is not even a matter of money. Adoration felt by Chinese teenagers for, for example, Kobe Bryant had to be seen to be believed, and it would be both extremely naive and utterly cynical to think these kind of sentiments are completely unreciprocated. In my opinion, LeBron James did not want to offend his legions of Chinese fans, to whom these issues are genuinely offensive, and about whose feelings he cares to a certain extent. The same way I never referred again to a “Republic of Macedonia” in front of my Cypriot friend.

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Auberon Linx

Its an economic decision as he didn’t want to jeopardize film’s success-which provides work for many people. The Chinese cinema market is huge & with current problems a film like his needs a big success.I suppose in the past actors would be careful not to offend America or Britain in the same way. It does show how power structure has changed.