CCTV Sports, a division of China’s state broadcaster, said in a statement, “We believe any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability do not belong to the category of free speech.”
Let that be a reminder that any nation that has prohibitions on speech doesn’t know the definition of free speech (it’s kinda like when Donald Trump lectures about…anything). For the speech to be free, all subjects fit the category, even those that scare you.
China loves basketball and the nation accounts for ten percent, and growing, of the National Basketball Association’s revenue. That revenue is now threatened after a tweet by one of the league’s general managers. Houston Rockets’ GM, Daryl Morey, sent out a tweet in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong. He tweeted, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” Authoritarian China was not pleased.
Chinese organizations and firms have suspended their relationship with the NBA, at least for the time being. Authorities made it clear that business as usual with the league will cease until the NBA totally repudiates Morey’s statement. They haven’t done that.
The tweet was deleted and the NBA issued a statement that was criticized for being too beholden to communist China. Since then, Commissioner Adam Silver defended Morey’s right to free speech saying the league would not pursue profits over principles. Silver said, “The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees, and team owners say or will not say.”
Where the NFL is afraid of Donald Trump and conservative America, the NBA is not and has set itself apart for standing up for social justice and against bullies like Trump. After Trump attacked NFL players for kneeling during the national anthem, the league changed policies to avoid the controversy, even going so far to hide the players in the locker room while the anthem is played.
After Trump attacked players who said they wouldn’t visit the White House by telling them they’re not welcome at the White House (in case you’ve forgotten, Donald Trump is a toddler), the players were supported by the commissioner and several team owners. Lebron James called Trump a “bum,” and was joined by other prominent players. While Trump continued to berate the NFL, calling for protesting players to be fired, like a bully, he slunk away from the NBA. In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick can’t even get a try out let alone a job.
NBA players have led on-court protests while wearing T-shirts in support of Black Lives Matter. When Arizona enacted a Gestapo-like law making it legal for cops to stop people for merely being brown, the Phoenix Suns wore “Los Suns” jerseys to support their Latino community and fan base. When racist comments from L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling emerged, the league banned him for life. The league has set a standard for itself. While kowtowing to China may save some revenue, not standing up for its players and employees would hurt it with its American fan base.
China has responded by canceling broadcasts of the two exhibition games between the L.A. Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets that are to be held tomorrow in Shanghai and Saturday in Shenzhen. Now, the actual games may be canceled also. The NBA’s exclusive partner in China, Tencent Sports, said it would suspend live streaming for Houston Rockets games, and stop reporting news about the team. That’s pretty big because the Rockets are the NBA’s most popular team in China, thanks to Yao Ming. Nearly 500 million people in China watched NBA programming on Tencent platforms last season.
Hopefully, the NBA continues to stand up to China. Bullies shouldn’t be tolerated and allowed to win when they threaten financial pressure. Some people in this country should learn that.
While Morey was tweeting “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” our president (sic) sent a congratulatory tweet to China on 70 years of communist rule. He also congratulated Vladimir Putin on winning a sham election after being coached by his staff, “do not congratulate.” It’s been reported that Donald Trump promised President Xi Jinping that he’d stay silent on Hong Kong protests while our two countries negotiated an end to the trade war he started. Trump says that’s not true, but he also said only dumb people would believe he talked to Ukraine about investigating the Bidens before a summary of the transcript came out proving he talked to Ukraine about investigating the Bidens…and then admitted it. Of course, while denying he promised not to criticize China over Hong Kong, he still hasn’t criticized China over Hong Kong. In fact, the guy who broadcasts his opinions from the mayor of London to Emmy ratings hasn’t shared one comment on the NBA/China rift.
Hysterically, the Trump Campaign is currently airing commercials about how it takes a “tough guy” to change Washington. This is the same “tough guy” who was too cowardly to bring up Otto Warmbier to Kim Jong Un’s face or to take our intelligence agencies’ side over Putin’s while standing next to the Russian dictator.
Silver said, “I do know there are consequences from freedom of speech; we will have to live with those consequences.” In case you’re a Republican, what Silver is practicing is called “ethics.”
Donald Trump is not a friend of free speech. He calls the free press “enemy of the American people” and has suggested we change laws, against our Constitution, that will allow punishing the press for reporting negatively about him. He’s not a friend of democracy. He’s tried to reward Putin and Russia by getting them back into the G7, from which they were expelled after invading a democratic American ally. He worked to steal one election, by asking a foreign nation to meddle, and he’s doing it again to steal a second.
I stand with Hong Kong. Anyone who favors democracy over authoritarianism, including the president of the United States, should stand with Hong Kong. Our president (sic) could stand to learn about principles, ethics, freedom of speech, social justice, and democracy from a bunch of basketball players.
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