Houston, we have a problem. The spineless NBA just shamed and embarrassed themselves to please an authoritarian government.
By PJ Chandra
Houston, we have a problem. General Manager of the Houston Rockets Daryl Morey sent out, “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong” on twitter. This tweet sparked a lot of controversy because communist authoritarian China imposed policies this summer to extradite criminal suspects back to China to effectively convict them. The mixing together of politics and sports has recently been a hot topic in part due to Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the national anthem.
Other prominent examples of politics in sports include the (back then) members of the St. Louis Rams walked onto the field with their hands up to acknowledge the events in Ferguson in 2014. Another example is when LeBron James and the Miami Heat took pictures in hoodies after George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the trial of the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012. Politics and sports will always mix, it just depends on how much and how far it goes.
The Houston Rockets owner quickly distanced himself and did not support Morey’s comments and later on Daryl Morey retracted his statement. However, the damage was already done. The Chinese Basketball Association immediately stopped all cooperation and even on their website it removed the Houston Rockets logo from their merchandise. China’s Ministry of Education cancelled an NBA event and another event involving the Lakers was also cancelled because of the incident. However, the real drama is not what happened between the Rockets and China, but what the NBA did (and didn’t do) after all this unfolded.
The NBA sent out the lamest statement ever stating:
“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. 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.”
The issue with this statement is it normalizes and does nothing to call out the terrible acts of China and also it kicks to the dirt one of the most respectable, classiest, and smartest GM’s in the game: Morey. NBA in China is worth more than $4 Billion and two companies have already suspended ties with the Houston Rockets (Li-Ning and Shanghai Pudong Development Bank). The issue with the NBA and weak coaches like Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, who are so quick to criticize the U.S. government but won’t call out the terrible and anti-democratic China, is they are afraid to call China out because of endorsement deals and the amount of money that the NBA makes off of them.
Your guess about what happens next is as good as mine, but what Daryl Morey in calling out Chian was correct, while other coaches, players, and the commissioner of the league (!) did not. Moving forward, the NBA needs to realize while, yes making money is important, not selling yourself out to an authoritarian government due to endorsements is even more important.