The NFL announced on Sunday that the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks will play in Beijing on August 8th, 2007 in the first ever NFL game in China. If you want to watch the game, you'll need to get up early. It will be broadcast live at 8:30 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday. Now China can watch the starters get pulled out after the second drive and watch fourth-team players fumble the ball around - and pay full price.
I've never been big on taking NFL games internationally. That's what television is for. I suspect ownership and league officials are drooling at the possibility of crazy merchandise sales. Maybe it's just me, but I think NFL games should be played in the United States; where the biggest fan-base lives. But if you have to outside the States, why pick China?
I'll let NFL commissioner give you the logic for putting an NFL game in China. "(It)'s also historic in many ways. Primarily two reasons: the first is, of course, it's our first game in China for the NFL. The second is that this date, August 8th, marks one year from the beginning of the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008."
But let's not put a rosy picture on China. The Asia/Pacific Deputy Program Director of Amnesty International said on August 5th, 2005, "Unfortunately despite the promises given to the International Olympic Committee, serious violations of human rights continue in China." The International Olympic Committee was concerned with Chinese citizens being imprisoned when they sent open letters to the IOC "calling for improvements in China's human rights, the thousands of Beijing residents forcefully" and illegally "evicted from their homes" and the suppression of groups the government fears my "embarrass" the nation during the Games.
Brad Adams, executive director of the Asia Division of Human Rights Watch said, "An embarrassing record of continuing human rights abuses is no way to welcome the world to Beijing."
Amnesty International in a report last week called on the IOC to "ensure Chinese compliance".
"Serious human rights violations continue to be reported across the country, fueling instability and discontent," the London-based group's report said. "Grass-roots human rights activists continue to be detained and imprisoned, and official controls over the media and the Internet are growing tighter."
In reflection, I have to ask, why China? Surely there are other nations, if you desperately want to get outside our borders that have earned the right to host an NFL game. Not one where international concern regarding human rights has long been voiced against the "Peoples" government.
Am I wrong? What are your thoughts?