Basketball star player Dwight Howard has issued an apology after triggering a backlash in China by calling Taiwan a 'country' in a video that went viral. Taiwan sees itself as distinct of mainland China, having its own constitution and leaders.
The 37-year-old's explosive statements came in a commercial appearance alongside Taiwan's vice-president. The eight-time NBA player is highly popular in China and moved to Taiwan to play for Taoyuan Leopards in the local league after leaving the Los Angeles Lakers in 2022. In a two-minute long promotional video, the American said in English about gaining a "a whole new appreciation of this country" arriving in Taiwan.
The video emerged to promote an event, inviting people to partake in a contest, with the winners getting an opportunity to spend a night at Taiwan's Presidential Office.
Howard later apologized, as quoted by local media, saying:
"If I offended anyone in China, anybody you know, I apologize."
The 37-year-old also issued a clarification while speaking in Taiwan on Friday. As quoted by the BBC, he stated:
"It was not my intention to harm anyone. don't want to get involved in any politics. I am a human, and I have the right to speak."
China demands an apology from Dwight Howard:
With the hashtag "Howard Taiwan independence" trending, it has been read over 400 million times on the social media platform Weibo. Howard's official Weibo account has also been flooded by several antagonistic comments. An English-language Chinese newspaper, named Global Times wrote that Chinese people expect an apology from the basketball star.
Nevertheless, this is not the first occasion that an NBA star has had a row with China. Boston Celtics' Enes Kanter landed in hot waters in 2021 after labelling President XI Jinping a 'brutal director'.