U.S. professional basketball player Dwight Howard poses for the media with auspicious messages that read “Dwight Howard comes,”right, and “Power erupts” during a signing ceremony with Taiwan Taoyuan Leopards in Taipei, Taiwan, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022.InternationalIndiaAfricaEven though he currently plays for a Taiwanese team, the 37-year-old former basketball legend admitted later that he never meant to call the island nation a “country.”American basketball legend Dwight Howard has quietly walked back comments suggesting he views the breakaway island of Taiwan as a legitimate nation-state, following massive outrage among Chinese fans.In a short promotional video published Wednesday by the island’s political leaders, Howard can be seen telling the camera: “Since I came to Taiwan, I’ve gained a whole new appreciation of this country.”Within 48 hours, the line ignited a firestorm of criticism among fans to the north, with the hashtag “Howard Taiwan independence” rocketing to the top of Weibo’s trending topics by Friday morning.In subsequent comments, Howard has attributed the incident to a “communication barrier.”“Where I’m from, if I say I wanna go to the country, it doesn’t not mean that place is a country — It’s just how we talk,” he said. “If I offended anyone in China, I apologize. It was not my intention to harm anyone with what I said in the commercial.”“I am not a politician,” Howard continued, adding: “I don’t want to get involved in any politics… I have the utmost respect for Chinese people and utmost respect for Taiwanese people, so it was never my intent to disrespect nobody.”AmericasWhite House Says Taiwanese Leader’s Private ‘Transit’ Via US in Line With One China Policy29 March, 18:51 GMTThe eight-time NBA All-Star player is extremely popular in Taiwan, where he’s been playing for the Taoyuan Leopards since he joined the squad last November after the Los Angeles Lakers declined to offer a multi-year contract to the aging athlete.
However, Howard is not the first professional NBA figure to get himself into hot water over a major Chinese political principle. Former Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey also faced withering criticism after making a public statement in support of anti-China rioters terrorizing the city of Hong Kong in 2019.
At the time, Chinese authorities temporarily suspended the broadcast of NBA games in the aftermath, with Morey ultimately resigning from his post.
Virtually every nation on the planet — including the United States — adheres to the “One China” policy, which stipulates that the People’s Republic of China is the sole legitimate government of China and that Taiwan is an inseparable part of the territory.