The National Football League (NFL) appears to have caved to pressure from the Chinese Communist Party, publishing on Wednesday a map that showed Taiwan belonging to China.
The map was published as part of the NFL’s announcement that “18 teams have been granted access to 26 International Home Marketing Areas (IHMA) across eight different countries.”
Among the countries listed is China, which includes Taiwan, according to the league’s map.
“NFL fandom begins with our clubs,” Christopher Halpin, NFL Executive Vice President, Chief Strategy & Growth Officer, said in a statement. “This important initiative enables NFL teams to develop meaningful, direct relationships with NFL fans abroad, driving fan growth and avidity globally. We were very pleased with the number, creativity and level of commitment of club proposals across the board in this initial application period and look forward to teams launching their efforts early next year.”
Joel Glazer, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Owner/Co-Chairman and NFL International Committee Chairman called the announcement “a significant milestone in our efforts to broaden the NFL’s global reach by building long-term relationships with these international markets that will play a large role in the continued growth and expansion of our sport for years to come.”
China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, but the island governs itself as a nation independent from Chinese rule. The NFL’s disregard for Taiwan’s independence sparked backlash on social media.
“The NFL, which is chasing dollars from the Chinese Communist Party, shows Taiwan as part of China,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) tweeted. “Disgraceful cowardice.”
Author Dinesh D’Souza tweeted, “NFL simps for communist China by erasing Taiwan from world map.”
Conservative political commentator Stephen L. Miller wrote, “Maybe the NFL should cease weighing in on social issues until it figures out why giving the LA Rams both China and Australia was a hilariously naive move.”
“I would love to hear how the NFL is planning (if at all) to deal with the free speech challenges that will inevitably develop here,” free speech advocate Sarah McLaughlin tweeted. “Their initial response to these issues in the U.S. was bad enough; what can we expect if they get their own NBA/China-type controversy?”
Last week, Taiwanese Digital Minister Audrey Tang’s video feed was cut during a presentation at President Joe Biden’s virtual Summit For Democracy after she showed a map displaying Taiwan as a different color than the Chinese mainland.
China has ramped up aggression towards the independent island nation of Taiwan in recent months, including by flying near daily military flights around the island. In just one day in November, China flew 27 warplanes around Taiwan, prompting the island to deploy fighter jets, activate its missile defenses and issue radio warnings for the communist nation to leave.