Chinese Athletes Are Angry
There's a chance you've heard about a bit of a kerfuffle yesterday between a Chinese basketball team and Georgetown. One reasonable conclusion to draw after witnessing it: "Boy, those players were angry." Well, they weren't the only ones. The same day news of the brawl captivated the internet, The New York Times published a piece on Chinese basketball players - and athletes all over the country - getting fed up with overbearing authority figures. Hmm...how might such frustration manifest itself during game action?
Reporter Dan Levin took special note of a letter written by China's junior national basketball team earlier this year, in which the team, sick of their coach "beating and verbally abusing us," requested he be shown the door. And it's not just tennis - Levin also mentions tennis player Li Na, who rejected the state sports system a few years back, tired of not having control over her own life. And she's done quite well on her own, reaching two major finals and, at the French Open, winning one. Any wonder why China seems to be celebrating her more than she's celebrating it? Of course, since China, according to Levin, ordered media outlets to "stop hyping Li Na's win" a few days after she took the French, maybe China isn't celebrating Li's triumph too much.
In a way, it even transcends sports entirely. Writes Levin:
[Chinese athletes'] struggle is a microcosm of the clash in contemporary China between the push for personal liberty and the grip of an authoritarian government.
Increasingly, it seems, athletes are discovering they enjoy this "personal liberty" stuff...and are showing less tolerance for those who impede on it. It's all part of being a still-evolving nation: it's hard to keep that "authoritarian government" humming so smoothly while also opening up the economy and dealing with the entire world. And hey, speaking of opening up the entire world, Levin specifically mentions the authority-challenging voice many Chinese athletes have found on social networks. Not only are they tired of the mistreatment, they've got an outlet to say so.
None of this is to say that there was a direct cause-and-effect relationship between being brought up in an oppressive environment and what transpired on the court with Georgetown. Players get heated in the course of game action, and sometimes that's all you need to go off. But were those Chinese players most likely brought up in the type of environment that made the junior team and Li Na decide that enough was enough? It's fair to think so, we'd say. If that were us, would we be happy? No way. Would that anger lead to us lashing out? There's a good chance it would. With more and more demonstrations condemning such treatment, do we think a system like the one Chinese athletics has in place now can last? Not a chance.
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