Source: NYT (10/26/20)
The Erasure of Mesut Özil
A year ago, he was one of the Premier League’s highest-paid players. Now, after angering China and refusing a pay cut, he has simply vanished.
By Rory Smith and Tariq Panja
LONDON — Everything started with a tweet. Mesut Özil knew the risks, in December last year, when he decided to offer a startling, public denunciation both of China’s treatment of the Uighurs, a largely Muslim minority in the region of Xinjiang, and the complicit silence of the international community.
Friends and advisers had warned Özil, the Arsenal midfielder, that there would be consequences. He would have to write off China as a market. His six million followers on Weibo, the country’s largest social network, would disappear. His fan club there — with as many as 50,000 signed-up members — would go, too. He would never play in China. He might become too toxic even for any club with Chinese owners, or sponsors eager to do business there.
Özil knew this was not fearmongering. He was aware of China’s furious response — both institutionally and organically — to a tweet by Daryl Morey, the general manager of the N.B.A.’s Houston Rockets, only a few weeks earlier. Yet Özil was adamant. He had been growing increasingly outraged by the situation in Xinjiang for months, watching documentaries, consuming news reports. He believed it was his duty, he told his advisers, not so much to highlight the issue but to pressure Muslim-majority nations — including Turkey, whose president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, had served as best man at Özil’s wedding — to intercede.
And so he pressed send. Continue reading