MLB Expanding Presence in China While Pulling Out of Atlanta

MATTHEW NIGHT_AFP via Getty Images
MATTHEW NIGHT/AFP via Getty Images

Major League Baseball faces increased public outrage on Monday after observers noted that the league pulled its All-Star Game from Georgia 24 hours after inking a deal with streaming service Tencent, a Chinese company close to the Communist Party.

South China Morning Post pointed out that MLB has replaced the NBA as the “latest sporting battleground” after announcing it is building a more significant presence in communist China with a new deal with Tencent, among other deals.

The Global Times, an approved Chinese state news outlet, noted that MLB will continue its relationship with Tencent, but has also struck a new deal with Oriental Pearl New Media, “allowing the 2021-23 seasons to be shown on cable TV in China.”

The continuing deal with Tencent will allow MLB games to be streamed through the 2023 season. The agreement also enables Tencent to broadcast MLB games to other Asian countries, including Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, through its international arm WeTV.

The decision to grow its presence in China through the communist government’s approved services comes on the heels of the league’s decision to pull its All-Star Game out of Atlanta, Georgia, over the state’s new election integrity law.

Last week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred insisted that pulling the game from the majority-black city of Atlanta was “the best way to demonstrate our values as a sport.”

Meanwhile, the communist Chinese have celebrated the deal with American baseball. As Beijing Enterprises Real-Estate Group Ltd. chairman Qian Xu said in 2017 when MLB made an earlier deal, “We are thrilled to have a strategic alliance with Major League Baseball that seeks to enhance the playing level of professional baseball teams in China.”

Just like American pro sports, China has not been above using its relationships to push its politics. In 2019, Tencent stopped airing the NBA’s games when Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the pro-democracy movement in China-controlled Hong Kong. The NBA apologized to China, but the apology did not bring the country’s streaming service back to the fold for nearly a year.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R, KY) took aim at MLB for ramping up its dealings with the communist Chinese even as it pulls out of an American state, saying that MLB is a “little too woke.”

“Your sports league might be a little too woke if it will freely do business with Communists in China and Cuba, but boycotts a U.S. state that wants people to show an I.D. to vote.,” Sen. Paul tweeted on Saturday.

Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton also criticized the league with a tweet asking how many days of early voting China has.

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