MSNBC host and activist Reverend Al Sharpton called out House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during a Friday appearance on “Morning Joe,” saying he disagreed with her call for Olympic athletes to remain silent on China’s human rights abuses.
Sharpton told host Willie Geist that while he understood the risk athletes would be taking if they chose to speak out, he did not believe it was fair for Pelosi to suggest they simply abandon their principles when they passed through Customs.
Pelosi issued her warning statement Thursday, telling athletes that they were there to compete and should not take unnecessary risks that could put them in danger.
Nancy Pelosi tells American athletes not to speak out on any Chinese genocide or human rights issues while they are at the Olympics. Maybe she can be the next NBA commissioner too? pic.twitter.com/oyTY74VPhJ
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) February 4, 2022
“Do not risk incurring the anger of the Chinese government because they are ruthless,” Pelosi advised athletes — but she also said that the United States government bore a responsibility to hold China to account for its human rights record.
“Now the IOC, aided by corporate sponsors, once again turns a blind eye with the 2022 Winter Olympics just to bolster their bottom line. If we do not speak out against human rights violations in China, because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out against human rights violations anywhere,” she added.
Sharpton joined “Morning Joe to discuss Pelosi’s warning, and he said that he “respectfully disagreed.”
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) February 4, 2022
“I appreciate that because it’s real,” Sharpton said. “But I respectfully disagree with the Speaker here — and I usually am supportive of her — because you cannot normalize what they are doing in China. And to go there and act like all is well is to normalize some very brutal behavior.”
“I think that it would be incumbent on them to say, ‘This is not the way the world ought to be functioning,'” Sharpton continued, going on to note that Americans often spoke out at home when they saw something wrong. “I think we do it at home, certainly we’re raising questions right now with the NFL with this new lawsuit that many of us are supporting.”
“So we’re supposed to leave our principles of protest at the — when we check in at Customs?” he asked. “I don’t think so. We need to let China know, ‘You live in a world that human rights is non-negotiable.”
Prior to the Olympics in Beijing, China’s Olympic organizing committee also issued warnings to athletes who might be tempted to speak out about political issues, saying, “Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit I’m sure will be protected. Any behavior or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against the Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.”
The United States, amid calls to boycott the Beijing winter games entirely, opted to go with a diplomatic boycott of the event.
“The Biden administration will not send any diplomatic or official representation to the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games, given the PRC’s ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters in early December.