NBA afraid to stand against China because money talks
Proving yet again that social media often does more harm than good, the National Basketball Association finds itself in a standoff with the Chinese government over a tweet sent by a member of the Houston Rockets front office that was supportive of the anti-government protestors in Hong Kong.
Because China’s brutal totalitarian regime believes the protests are essentially an act of terrorism against China, it condemns them and anyone who dares speak out in support of them.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who has often been hailed as the best commissioner of any of the major American professional sports leagues because of his support for social activism among his players and coaches, came out a few days ago with a statement that wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on.
Silver, in a clear effort to placate the Chinese government as to not lose access to the vast amount of revenue available in that nation, tried to sit squarely on top of the fence. He said that while he doesn’t apologize for the team executive exercising his right to free speech, he can understand why many in China were offended by the statement.
He may as well have said “We like American and Chinese money equally, so, hopefully neither side will be mad at us and we can just go back to making billions of dollars from both countries.”
This controversy comes at a really awkward time for Silver and the NBA as this week, the league has been playing exhibition games in Asia, including two in China. The Chinese government banned the games from being broadcast on state-run TV in the country and a goodwill event involving NBA players that was to benefit Special Olympics was also cancelled.
NBA players and coaches have not been shy to speak out about other issues that have nothing to do with basketball — including many who regularly criticize President Donald Trump.
The NBA has also long snuggled up to China because it realizes the potential to make billions of dollars in a country that has a growing love of the sport of basketball.
But now, when the NBA stands to lose that money if China’s government permanently pulls the plug on the league’s availability in that country, suddenly, no one has anything to say on the issue.
That is called being a sell-out, and not the kind the NBA is usually seeking.
If the league was really about standing up for what is right, as it often wants us to believe, it would unequivocally stand against the Chinese government and its abhorrant human rights record and state that it supports the efforts of the Hong Kong protestors fighting for basic freedom from Chinese repression, no matter the consequences.
But, instead, the NBA is probably going to hope that once the China games are played, the whole issue just quietly goes away and it can go back to business as usual.
It’s clear that while the NBA and its players and coaches may say a lot, money says a lot more.