Jake Bequette, the U.S. Army veteran and former NFL player running for Senate as a Republican in Arkansas, told FOX Business that corporate America and professional sports leagues run the risk of alienating their customer and fan base when wading into social justice issues.
Bequette was reacting to comments made by Golden State Warriors part owner Chamath Palihapitiya during an interview on the "All-In Podcast" over the weekend. Palihapitiya suggested that "nobody cares" about the plight and human rights abuses Uyghur Muslims are facing in China. The comments set off a firestorm.
"As a former college and pro athlete, it's been very disgusting, quite frankly, to see these professional sports leagues wade into social justice causes at every turn, and, in many cases, you know, taking anti-police, anti-military, really, anti-American stands," Bequette told FOX Business.
"And then when a part owner of one of the most prominent NBA franchises says that he simply doesn't care, not just that he doesn't care, but that ‘no one cares’ about the ethnic cleansing and the genocide that is taking place inside China as we speak, you know, I think it is really indicative of the hypocrisy of the radical left."
Bequette said the comments were "indicative of the empty virtue signaling from corporate America and big tech elites who were happy to make billions of dollars doing business with the communist Chinese party."
"Corporate America, in many cases, they are taking unpatriotic stances," Bequette added. "Too often you're seeing Fortune 500 companies, big tech executives, owners of these sports teams and all they really care about is market share and gaining ground in overseas markets, and, in many cases, the number one target is China."
He added that in order for them to "accomplish that goal, they will take political stances that align with the Chinese Communist Party over the United States."
Pointing to China as the United States' "number one global trading partner," Bequette said, "Many of our biggest companies are deeply intertwined with China and the Chinese government.
"I think that's a huge problem, and it will be on display with the Winter Olympics in Beijing," Bequette added, slamming the Biden administration for its "half-way diplomatic boycott" instead of a "full boycott."
The Biden administration announced last month that it would not send any "diplomatic or official representation" to Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, amid the People’s Republic of China’s "ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity" in Xinjiang. The move comes after growing calls for a full boycott of the Olympics and calls earlier in the year for President Biden to push for the winter games to be moved out of China.
"It is unthinkable that we are about to send America's greatest athletes to compete on the international stage and essentially give a month-long propaganda victory to our number-one geopolitical enemy," said Bequette, a former New England Patriot.
"I think that's totally unacceptable the Biden administration has done this halfway diplomatic boycott, which really means nothing. There should be a full boycott. I hate it for the athletes because I know how hard these athletes train.
"For most of them, they don't really care about politics, they care about performance. They want to show their abilities on the world stage, and I empathize with that."
But Bequette warned that when professional athletes and sports and corporate executives weigh in on social justice issues, politics and more, it has a "negative and a depressing effect on fan engagement and viewership."
"We have seen fans be completely turned off by this," Bequette said. "Sports had traditionally held a very special place in American culture because sports, in my belief, they reflect traditional, American values."
"The things that make this country great are competition, a diverse group of people from many different backgrounds and social statuses, to come together, to work towards a common goal," he said. "And Americans love greatness, they love to see American athletes be the best in the world competing at the elite level."
Bequette said Americans "have always seen our sports stars and sports teams as the best in the world.
"Unfortunately, and tragically, I think the radical left, they see American sports as one of the final frontiers that they want to conquer," he said. "They see these traditional American values being reflected in high school, college and pro sports, and they want to destroy that. They want to destroy that joy that America feels, they want to destroy that national pride that people feel."
"This is part of the reason why I'm running for political office, because I've seen what's happened in those bastions of traditional American values, like sports and the military. And I see what's happening," Bequette said.
"I know it is not too late to reverse it," he continued. "We just need tremendous leaders who recognize the problem and are unafraid to speak out and lead on it."