It is one of those things that would easily be overlooked. A crowd shot during a stoppage in play and a couple of fans holding up signs. Nothing big. Nothing newsworthy, at least in the United States.
At the 2:13 mark of the first period of Thursday’s NBA game between the host Chicago Bulls and visiting Cleveland Cavaliers, Cavs center Timofey Mozgov charges into Bulls forward Taj Gibson, drawing the offensive foul and bringing us to a television timeout. And, we get a crowd shot with two individuals holding up signs. One, however, does not appear to be really pulling for the Bulls…or the Cavs for that matter.Written in Chinese are the words “馬英九下台” [Ma Ying Jeou xia tai]. What does it say? No one in the U.S. or on TNT’s NBA broadcast really cared; maybe it is just support for Derrick Rose. Well, actually, what the Man in Yellow (as we’ll call him) is significant for people in Taiwan. 馬英九 is the name of the Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and many people in Taiwan are unhappy with him. And “下台” means to “step down.” The message is quite clear.
President Ma, who is in the second and final term as leader of the East Asian state, has faced heavy criticism in Taiwan from opposition leaders, especially during his second term. Much of it focuses on his attempts to foster closer ties with China at the expense of Taiwanese sovereignty [at least, as some see it]. This was encapsulated by last year’s “Sunflower Revolution.” But charges of corruption and ineptness are becoming extremely vocal over the past couple of years. Add to this major losses by the ruling Kuomintang Party [KMT] in mayoral elections last December, which led to Ma’s stepping down as party chair, issues concerning food safety, and questions over the residency status of him and his family and it is no wonder his approval rating is under 20 percent.
So, enter the 12 February game leading us into the All-Star Break and Man in Yellow. His call for President Ma to step down is something that does not necessarily resonate with U.S. fans [though some may argue that they can relate], but it was a sign and a message not lost on Taiwanese viewers and its media, as seen here and here and here.
What this demonstrates is the crossroads of sports and politics. While that quick shot and seemingly innocuous message might not say much to those in the West, it speaks volumes to those in Taiwan [and to a certain extent in China]. Basketball is rapidly becoming the most played sport among youth in Taiwan and NBA games appear regularly on television in the country. Man in Yellow utilized the opportunity that (televised) professional sports presented to him — a chance to get out one simple message that a growing segment of the Taiwanese population seem to be thinking:
See, despite what the “spirit of the Olympics” might wish for, there is no separating politics and sports.