Earlier this year in June the NBA ran into problems because some of the players mentioned that the word “owners,’ referring to the people who had rights to the team franchise and paid them their pittance each month, made them uncomfortable because it made them think of slavery. I had to stop to think about that. Slaves were literally owned by their masters. NBA players are free to sign a temporary contract or not. Slaves had to work without pay pretty much until they died. The pittance the NBA players get is somewhere in the millions of dollars and no one forces them to play this game at all. But hey, if that makes you worry about slavery, fine. The NBA responded by noting that the people who had rights to the teams were called ‘governors” and the board of governors set the rules.
I remind you of that to set the background for the latest clash involving the NBA. The China Clash. The NBA has some kind of arrangement with China. Some teams were apparently over in China for some good will, exhibition type games. (Please correct me if I’m remembering wrong.) Then, the GM for the Houston Rockets tweeted “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” Immediately, Chinese television stopped broadcasting and streaming the game and Chinese companies cut off all sponsorship of the team. China is a big market. The NBA stands to make half a billion dollars in their partnership with China. The NBA folded like a pup tent in a Cat V hurricane.
The GM was reprimanded, although a slight nod was given to the idea of freedom of speech. Players were aghast that someone would say something bad about China because they’re treated well there. Although, as pointed out in an NPR article, James Harden, one of the Rockets stars, wouldn’t be allowed to wear his beard if he were living in China, since “abnormal” beards have been outlawed. No matter, Harden supported the Chinese government because they treat the players nice there.
Lest we forget what’s going on, while Hong Kong reverted back to Chinese rule a number of years ago, the people there had more freedom than the rest of the country. In recent days, China has been working on bringing this “abnormal” colony into the communist fold. Hong Kong has been rocked with protests as the people there are fighting for freedom. The Houston GM reminded people that we should stand for freedom and the people of Hong Kong.
It goes without saying that the Chinese government is a brutal, repressive communist “paradise.” The beard law mentioned earlier is part of the government’s crackdown on Muslims in the western provinces. Muslims are imprisoned in re-education camps because their faith is considered a form of dissidence. (And while the government’s reaction to Christians isn’t part of this story, they get similar treatment.) Remember the slavery concerns mentioned earlier – well, the Chinese government practices slavery and there are reports of organ harvesting where prisoners are killed, organs are harvested for transplants, and then the bodies are cremated.
Maybe these NBA players have focused so much on throwing that round sphere through a hoop with a slightly bigger circumference so much that they don’t understand that slavery’s happening in China, or maybe they figure that they can get a cut of the blood money that the government takes in from their oppression and slavery, so that makes it ok. Still they do seem to have a very keen understanding of America’s problem in regards to issues of brutality and oppression. They speak out, as they should, but their silence on the issue of China’s oppression is deafening – and scandalous in its hypocrisy.
The NBA had a chance to make a stand. If they had any integrity or ethics, when the Chinese government reacted to the Houston GMs tweet, every single NBA official, team official, and player should have retweeted those words: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” even if it cost the league a half a billion dollars. They gross around seven billion dollars a year right now. I think everyone in the league would still be able to have a roof over their head and food on the table. I think, though, in the long run, China wants the NBA so much that they would have backed down in the face of this show of unity. But they didn’t. The NBA knuckled under to their Chinese overlords without even a fight. If there’s any justice in this world, NBA revenues ought to drop by at least a billion dollars this year as people show their disgust with their wallets. Sadly, I think the NBA is a product of the culture, and most people wouldn’t let the NBA’s cowardice affect them.