Mesut Ozil during a Premier League match between Arsenal FC and Southampton FC at Emirates Stadium in London. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
A midfield player for the English Premier League’s Arsenal, Mesut Ozil, had his likeness removed from Konami’s Chinese mobile version of Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2020. The action comes as a response for Ozil’s comments on social media condemning China’s treatment of a Muslim sect in the northwestern part of the country.
In a now removed Twitter post, Ozil lamented the treatment of Uighur Muslims in China as well as the lack of response to it from the greater Muslim world.
“[In China] Qurans are burned, mosques were closed down, Islamic theological schools, madrasas were banned, religious scholars were killed one by one. Despite all this, Muslims stay quiet.”
Mesut Ozil, in Twitter post (translation provided by The Guardian)
NetEase, the company that publishes PES in China, put out a statement reacting to Ozil’s comments, justifying their choice to remove Ozil from the game. The Chinese government also released a statement saying that the German-born player was “deceived by fake news“.
“The speech hurt the feelings of Chinese fans and violated the sports spirit of love and peace. We do not understand, accept or forgive this.”Statement from NetEase, Chinese publisher of PES 2020.
The reaction to the post got massive reactions from both the Chinese and English press, and even got on the radar of the U.S. Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Mr. Pompeo sent a tweet in support of Ozil’s comments and doubled down China’s human rights violations against the Uighurs.
The This marks the latest entry in China’s action against video games or people involved with them. Earlier this year they, instituted a law limiting the amount of time Chinese youth could play games. And put pressure on American gaming giant, Blizzard, to take action against a professional Hearthstone player that made pro-Hong Kong protest comments on an official stream.
Norris’ Disappointing Opinion: Ozil is one of my favorite players of the decade. He has always worn his faith and politics on his sleeve and over the past few seasons hasn’t been a stranger to controversial positions. However, a stance against the mistreatment of any minority group is commendable, especially knowing that it could cost you down the line. China’s also refused to show some Arsenal matches in the wake of Ozil’s comments, hindering his team’s ability to gain fans in the Chinese market.