A boycott of the games in China will be troublesome for NBCUniversal, which holds the broadcasting rights in the United States.
The US State Department announced on Tuesday that it is considering a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics, which will be held in Beijing, China.
In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that an Olympics boycott “is one of the topics that is on the agenda, both now and moving forward.”
“It’s something we certainly want to talk about, and we realise that a concerted strategy will be beneficial not just to us, but also to our allies and partners,” Price said.
Later on Twitter, he added: “As I previously said, there has been no announcement about the Beijing Olympics. While 2022 is still a long way off, we will continue to work closely with allies and stakeholders to identify our mutual interests and formulate a strategy for dealing with the PRC.”
The boycott is being pushed because of China’s alleged human rights violations and treatment of the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority group that China has sent to “re-education” camps.
Although the US government does not appear to be close to making a decision on a possible boycott of the 2022 Olympics, the possibility is sure to worry Comcast’s NBCUniversal, which owns the Olympic television rights.
Following a pandemic-related postponement, the 2020 Olympics seem to be on track to take place in Tokyo, Japan (albeit without international spectators), but the organisation has already begun pitching the 2022 Olympics to advertisers as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with the company also hosting the 2022 Super Bowl, which will take place during the games.
The TV prosecutions will be hindered by a US boycott, or a boycott by the US and some allies. The last time the United States boycotted the Olympics was in 1980, when they were held in Moscow, the Soviet Union’s capital at the time.
As of this writing, an NBC Sports representative had not replied to a request for comment, but the US Olympic Committee has stated that it opposes a boycott.
“While we will never minimize what is happening in China in terms of human rights, we do not endorse an athlete boycott,” said Susanne Lyons, president of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, at a press conference last month. “We believe boycotts like this haven’t worked in the past, especially in 1980,” Lyons said. “Boycotts just hurt athletes who have spent their entire lives training for this chance to represent their country.”