The U.S. State Department on Tuesday confirmed that it is weighing the possibility of a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics, set to be held in Beijing, China.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price, in a press briefing Tuesday afternoon, said that an Olympics boycott “is one of the issues that is on the agenda, both now and going forward.
“It is something we certainly wish to discuss, and something that we understand that a coordinated approach would not only be in our interest, but also the interests of our allies and partners.”
He later added on Twitter: “As I said, we don’t have any announcement regarding the Beijing Olympics. 2022 remains a ways off, but we will continue to consult closely with allies and partners to define our common concerns and establish our shared approach to the PRC.”
The push for a boycott stems from China’s alleged human rights abuses, and its treatment of the Uyghurs, an ethnic minority group that China has moved to “re-education” camps.
While the U.S. government does not appear close to a decision on a potential boycott of the 2022 games, the threat is sure to raise concerns within Comcast’s NBCUniversal, which has the TV rights to the Olympics.
After a pandemic-spurred postponement, the 2020 Olympics as of now appear to be a go in Tokyo, Japan (albeit without foreign spectators), but NBCUniversal has already been promoting the 2022 Olympics to marketers as part of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, with the company also holding the 2022 Super Bowl, which will coincide with the games.
A U.S. boycott, or a boycott from the U.S. and some allies, would put a damper on the TV proceedings. The last U.S. Olympics boycott was in 1980, when the games were held in Moscow, which was at the time the capital of the Soviet Union.
A spokesperson for NBC Sports had not responded to a request for comment as of writing; however, the U.S. Olympic Committee has said it opposes a boycott.
“While we would never want to minimize what is happening from a human rights perspective in China, we do not support an athlete boycott,” said U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee president Susanne Lyons at a press conference in March. “We believe such boycotts have not been effective in the past, particularly in 1980. … Those boycotts only hurt athletes who have trained their entire lives for this opportunity to represent their country.”