CAIR Calls on U.S. To Protect Athletes’ Right to Free Speech During Olympic Games

U.S. has urged athletes to remain silent

The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), called on the Biden administration to protect the free speech rights of American athletes during the Beijing Winter Olympics. The statement from the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization comes in the wake of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warning American athletes not to speak out against the Chinese government.

“Do not risk incurring the anger of the Chinese government, because they are ruthless, Pelosi said before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China Thursday.

CAIR Deputy Executive Directory Edward Ahmed Mitchell took issue with the House Speaker’s stance.

“Instead of discouraging American athletes from engaging in free speech during the Beijing Olympics, the United States should pledge to forcefully defend athletes who speak up about China’s genocide of Uyghur Muslims,” Mitchell wrote in a statement.

“We cannot let the Chinese Communist Party threaten, bully or intimidate American athletes into silence. President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and all elected officials should make it clear that we will protect every American athlete’s right to free speech."

Last month, CAIR uged Olympic athletes to defy China’s announced ban on political expression and speak out against the Uyghur genocide.

Noah Hoffman, who grew up in Aspen and raced for Ski and Snowboard Club Vail, has been at the center of the issue, advising athletes against speaking up while in China during a Human Rights Watch roundtable three weeks ago. While Hoffman believes in the importance of athletes being able to advocate and stand up for important social issues, he told the Vail Daily that doing so at these Games would be far too risky. Hoffman has been working to expose issues of accountability and athlete voice in international sport governing bodies as an athlete board member of Global Athlete.

Yesterday, an op-ed by Hoffman was published in the Daily Mail shaming U.S. businesses which have been colluding with the “corrupt IOC and Chinese despots.”

CAIR has also called businesses to action, urging Olympic advertisers Coca-Cola, Intel, Visa, Airbnb, and others to speak out against the Uyghur genocide.

“If American corporations are going to advertise during the Beijing-hosted Olympics as if it’s business as usual, those same companies should at least make it clear that they reject and condemn human rights violations, including China’s ongoing genocide of Uyghur Muslims,” Mitchell said Jan. 25.

The Olympic Charter states in part that sport should preserve “human dignity” and adds that, “The enjoyment of the rights and freedoms set forth in this Olympic Charter shall be secured without discrimination of any kind.”

While CAIR’s recent statement runs against the Biden administration’s advice to athletes, they were in support of the U.S.’s diplomatic boycott of the Olympics. In addition, they supported a call by U.S. lawmakers of the U.N. to release a report on Xinjiang Province, where the genocide is taking place.

CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.

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