Movie star and pro wrestler John Cena was taken to the mat by critics Tuesday for apologizing to China after he called Taiwan a country in an interview.
Cena told Taiwanese media that Taiwan would be the first “country” to be able to see his new “Fast and Furious” film “F9,” prompting backlash in China, which considers the self-ruled democratic island nation its own territory, The Associated Press reported. China often takes suggestions of Taiwan independence as an insult.
“In one interview, I made a mistake,” Cena said in Mandarin in a video posted Tuesday to Chinese social media, per AP. “I need to say now that this is very, very, very, very, very important. I love and respect China and the Chinese people. I’m very, very sorry. As for my mistake, I really apologize for it.”
American business efforts to placate China because of its lucrative market are nothing new. In 2019 Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey issued an apology after tweeting his support for democratic protesters in Hong Kong. But the damage was done.
Cena was called out by journalists, politicians and others on Twitter. Commentator Keith Olbermann ripped him for his “gutlessness” and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said the apology was “outrageous.”