An offer from Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei to provide free Wi-Fi at Washington Redskins football games sparked a federal complaint that ultimately led to the end of the partnership, according to a Wall Street Journal article on Monday.
In 2014, Huawei and Redskins officials struck a deal that would have allowed Huawei to provide Wi-Fi to suites at the team’s home, FedEx Field. In exchange, Huawei would advertise during broadcasts and in the stadium, the Journal reported.
Huawei advertised in FedEx field at two games. Redskins Vice President Rod Nenner even presented Huawei general manager Ming He on the field with a jersey that said “Huawei.”
Shortly after, Michael Wessel, a member of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, encouraged a high-ranking government official to contact the Redskins about the partnership, according to the newspaper. The suites at the stadium are often used by prominent Washingtonians, including high-ranking officials.
The Redskins ultimately killed the deal, choosing U.S.-based Wi-Fi providers later that year. The deal between the Chinese company and the American sports team lasted roughly seven weeks, according to the Journal.
U.S. lawmakers have called Huawei a national security threat, citing its close ties to the Chinese government and the heightened risk of espionage. Huawei has denied the accusations.
A House Intelligence Committee six years ago determined the company’s hardware could be used to spy on Americans.
The Journal reported that Huawei officials warned Redskins representatives of the national security concerns surrounding them during negotiations, citing a source.
“Do you know who we are?” one Huawei representative reportedly asked.
“Do you know who we are?” the Redskins representative replied, according to the source. The team has long sparked controversy over its name and logo, which critics call racist.
A Redskins spokesman said the franchise does not recall the conversation. Huawei declined to comment for the report.
Experts and lawmakers in the U.S. have continued to regard Huawei with concern.
The U.S. earlier this month requested Canadian authorities to arrest Meng Wanzhou, Huawei’s chief financial officer. Meng has been accused of violating trade sanctions against Iran and is facing extradition to the U.S.
China has detained two Canadian citizens, apparently in retaliation.
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