The NBA Is Choosing Money Over Human Rights

Landon Mion | @landon_mion

On Friday, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted out his opinion regarding the protests in Hong Kong. His tweet was of a picture that read, “fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” However, the NBA does not support Morey’s actions.

Morey criticized the Communist Party of China for their treatment of the citizens of Hong Kong; there is nothing wrong with what he said.  He even received support from Republican and Democratic politicians alike, including Ted Cruz, Julián Castro, and Beto O’Rourke. 

The NBA Places Profit First

The NBA is prioritizing money over rights as they will now be losing consumers in China.  Sporting goods manufacturers Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank will be cutting ties with the Rockets after Morey’s recent tweet.  Moreover, Chinese state television and internet giant Tencent—which inked a five-year, $1.5 billion deal in August to stream NBA games in China—will no longer stream Rockets games.  Former Rocket Yao Ming, president of the Chinese Basketball Association, announced that the CBA will be cutting ties with the Houston Rockets.

The NBA would lose a fair sum of money from China’s cutting ties with their country’s most popular team.  Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta, star James Harden, and the NBA all apologized for Morey’s remarks in hopes to rekindle the relationship between China and the NBA.  In doing so, they have placed money over freedom.

It’s not like the NBA prevents those within the league from speaking up on political issues; commissioner Adam Silver has even encouraged people in the NBA family to speak up for what they believe in.  Lakers star Lebron James has called Trump a racist, the Warriors coach responds to many of Trump’s tweets, and the NBA released a statement regarding the tension between NBA player Enes Kanter and the Turkish government.

Steve Kerr has further shown the hypocrisy of the NBA when he said he could not comment on the situation in Hong Kong despite continuously attacking Trump and conservatives on Twitter.  He absolutely can comment; he has done so many times over.  Once more, it appears that the extra money is more important than calling out China when he has a history of doing so when it comes to American politics.  Kerr, like the NBA, seems to only call out politicians and political situations when it supports his agenda and when he is not likely to lose consumers.

The Double Standard

While it certainly is possible that the NBA supports China’s actions or doesn’t want to lose fans as a result of having differing opinions, this appears unlikely. After all, the loss of conservative fans as a result of progressive comments and actions has seemingly not bothered them. Thus, it is likely not the case that they solely want to avoid striking the nerve of their Chinese fans.

It is definitely acceptable for athletes to refrain from speaking up about their political opinions, especially in today’s political climate where Cancel Culture is all-too-common. For example, Celtics All-Star Gordon Hayward, who didn’t speak out on politics, was outed as a likely conservative after it was found out that he followed President Donald Trump and TPUSA founder Charlie Kirk. He has faced a great deal of antagonism since. While this shows why some may want to avoid talking politics altogether, it doesn’t give an excuse for the more vocal players and coaches to suddenly shy away.

In a world where sports and politics have intermingled, it is laughable that only now does the NBA shy away from a political situation.  It has never stopped them before; refusing to denounce China for their violations of human rights is shameful. Many players and coaches have stated on numerous occasions that they will not ‘stick to basketball’; they want to have a presence in social injustices. But evidently, that is no longer true when losing Chinese support is at stake.


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