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Boycott the Beijing Olympics?

At this moment, a boycott of the Beijing Olympics would seem pretty unlikely. It took a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan for the U.S. and other countries to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics. (The Soviets repaid the favor in 1984, staying home from the Los Angeles games.)

On the other hand, a lot of people around the world harbor feelings of discomfort toward the newly muscular China. An interesting article by Howard Beck in today’s New York Times tells of Cleveland Cavaliers’ reserve Ira Newble, who read an article in USA Today about the violence and death in Darfur and decided to take action:

The result is a letter, signed by Newble and most of his teammates and released last week, that takes aim at China, which supplies the Sudanese government with money and weapons. China, in turn, is a major importer of Sudan’s oil.The letter reads in part, “We, as basketball players in the N.B.A. and as potential athletes in the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, cannot look on with indifference to the massive human suffering and destruction that continue in the Darfur region of Sudan.” It concludes with a plea to the Chinese government “to use all available diplomatic resources and economic pressure to end the agony of Darfur, and to secure access for U.N. peace support personnel.”

I am guessing that Newble, who averages 3 points a game, isn’t even a candidate for the U.S. Olympic basketball team. And the letter of protest wasn’t signed by Newble’s famous Cavs teammate LeBron James — who, along with the N.B.A. itself, has business interests in China. (That’s why, if you remember, James is studying Mandarin.)

Still, the Beijing Olympics are more than a year away, which is a long, long time. (Just ask Obama/ Romney/ Clinton/ Giuliani/ Edwards/ McCain et al). There is a lot of anti-China noise in a lot of quarters, and if Newble’s earnest protest somehow catches fire among some N.B.A. players who do have the juice with the U.S. basketball team, then anything might happen.