Following a controversial tweet, the NBA has found itself in the middle of another difficult situation
China has fallen in love with basketball thanks to the NBA. Since the NBA being is the premier basketball league, Chinese basketball fans have always looked to the American based league to satisfy their craving.
For the NBA, there is a large amount of financial opportunity in China, and they know they would be remiss if they ignored a country with a population of more than one billion people who consistently enjoy the NBA’s product just as American fans do.
It also never hurts to spread the popularity of the American based game across the globe and China certainly is a terrific outlet for doing so. It is natural for any sports league to have a desire to spread their product all over the world and gather a countless number of potential fans.
However, China operates on a much different platform than the U.S. By platform, I mean they run their country using the exact tactics that America has defied since its conception some 240 years ago. Suppressing the voice of their people, not allowing individual freedom and controlling that which is enjoyed by its people, China is a communist country that allows little freedom of expression within its borders.
Although it is a more progressive communist country by allowing American products like the NBA to come into its country, the label remains the same. China does not stand for anyone or any sentiment bashing or criticizing its governmental process.
This is where the root of the problem stems from. There is a clash between two starkly different ideas in terms of how people should be allowed to live. Protestors from Hong Kong, which is a somewhat democratic society, although it is still under the rule of the People’s Republic of China, are revolting over the Anti–Extradition Law Amendment Bill.
The NBA has found itself in the middle of this turmoil simply because of a tweet … or so most would think. Yes, Daryl Morey’s tweet regarding Hong Kong was risky considering the NBA was hosting a select amount of preseason games in China at the time. However, the tweet is not the issue in this case. The real issue is much larger than the tweet.
Morey, the owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, simply brought attention to something that more Americans should be loudly supporting. Protestors in Hong Kong are fighting for something that America has prided itself on since the beginning: personal freedom.
The NBA has always been a politically fueled league since its days in the 1960s when the Civil Rights protests were in full force. Since then, the NBA has continued this pattern of societal leadership all the way up to the revelation of Donald Sterling’s sentiments regarding minorities at Clippers games as recently as 2014. The NBA has always been ahead of the curve regarding advancements in the social realm of American society.
It is a terrific thing to see basketball being played at the NBA level in the far east. Introducing overseas fans to something they would never get to see otherwise is such a wonderful thing for the NBA to do and take initiative on. LeBron James, one of the greatest basketball players ever, showcasing his skills in China can do so much to grow the game globally.
However, when China does not respect what America stands for and supports, is it ethical? From silencing journalists and players to simply painting over Rockets logos because of owner Darly Morey’s tweet in support of Hong Kong, China has no respect for basic human rights regarding thought, expression and speech.
Maybe it is time for the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver to put their foot down and stay away from showing games in China, at least until China can agree that they aren’t going to retaliate if an American rightfully supports the Hong Kong movement. Following his initial tweet, Morey stated that he didn’t mean to offend Chinese fans or Rockets fans in China. He was very respectful regarding the public sharing of his opinion and showed even more respect for China and Chinese basketball fans in his apology prior to his original tweet.
It is one thing for China to be upset about Morey’s tweet, but it is a totally different thing to silence sports journalists covering the games in China, to paint over Rockets logos and to keep from distributing their merchandise. Even more out of bounds was China’s request that Silver discipline Morey for his tweet which Silver properly reacted to by stating there is no way that is going to happen no matter how upset China is.
Clearly, there is money in China for the NBA to profit from. Silver has stated that the financial losses attached to this issue have been “substantial”. At some point though the NBA needs to give up that money in order to make a point that the league is not going to stand for the expressional suppression that China has demonstrated these past weeks. If the NBA wants to continue to uphold its image as a social justice leader through sport, maybe it should follow in the footsteps of one of its franchise owners and refrain from supporting in any way the beliefs of a nation that has no respect for the basic idea of freedom.
Its none of the NBA’s business what China does or doesn’t do politically. At the same time, that doesn’t mean it needs to showcase its incredibly popular product in a place that has neglected basic human rights for far too long. After this incident, I think it’s time that the NBA reevaluate where it showcases its basketball.