by WorldTribune Staff, October 7, 2019
The National Basketball Association (NBA) claims to be the most progressive of the American professional sports leagues with its support of social activism and letting players have their own voice.
The NBA also has a heavy appetite for Communist China’s money.
When Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, the so-called progressive ideals of the league ran up against its bottom line — and the Chinese money dunked on human rights.
“Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong,” Morey tweeted on Oct. 4.
The Chinese government, the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) and multiple Chinese businesses quickly severed all ties with the Rockets.
Tencent Holdings, a gaming and tech giant which analysts say has a relationship of mutual benefit with the communist Chinese state, has paid billions of dollars to extend its streaming deal with the NBA. Following Morey’s tweet, Tencent Holdings announced it has “suspended all reports/streaming of Houston Rockets.”
Nearly 500 million people in China watched the NBA on Tencent last season, Kendall Baker noted in an Oct. 7 report for Axios. “It’s basically their ‘League Pass,’ and now the Rockets are effectively banned,” Baker wrote.
The Rockets quickly benched any support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. By Oct. 6, Morey had apologized, tweeting he was “merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event.”
The owner of the Houston Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, publicly declared that Morey was “not” speaking for the organization.
Joe Tsai, the owner of the Brooklyn Nets who is also co-founder of the Communist China company Alibaba, said: “I don’t know Daryl personally. I am sure he’s a fine NBA general manager, and I will take at face value his subsequent apology that he was not as well informed as he should have been. But the hurt that this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver will be in China this week to watch the Los Angeles Lakers and Nets play 2 preseason games. Following Morey’s tweet, the NBA issued an official statement, saying: “We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”
The Ringer reported that Rockets’ ownership has “absolutely discussed” whether Morey should be fired. Baker said he spoke with two people who said they expect Morey could “be gone by tomorrow unless the NBA steps up and supports him.”
The Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck tweeted: “I understand financial/political realities at work here. But Morey was simply advocating for civil/humanitarian rights — the same values the NBA regularly espouses and purportedly stands for. If the league allows a team official to be fired for doing so, it undermines it all.”
The NBA’s statement continued: “While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted: “As a lifelong Houston Rockets fan, I was proud to see [Daryl Morey] call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protestors in Hong Kong. … We’re better than this; human rights shouldn’t be for sale & the NBA shouldn’t be assisting Chinese communist censorship.”
Houston Rockets star James Harden jumped on the kowtow to China bandwagon, saying after Morey’s tweet: “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there. We go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.” (Would that be the love of money?)
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted: “NBA players have no problem speaking out on politics & social issues in America. But they apologize to #China for a pro democracy tweet from an @NBA team executive. Hypocrites.”
As Beijing brutally cracks down on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, and detains some 1 million Muslims in prison camps on the mainland, many observers say the NBA seems to have greater respect for China’s money than individuals’ human rights.