Thursday, October 17, 2019

China is at War With the NBA

The National Basketball Association is now at war with the nation/state of China, and the economic future of the league is, somehow, in serious jeopardy:

As the fallout from the controversy between the NBA and China continues, commissioner Adam Silver addressed how the Chinese government responded to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's tweet.

"We were being asked to fire him, by the Chinese government, by the parties we dealt with in government and business. We said there's no chance that's happening. There's no chance we'll even discipline him," Silver said at the TIME 100 Health Summit on Thursday.

He added: "We wanted to make an absolutely clear statement that the values of the NBA, these American values—we are an American business—travel with us wherever we go. And one of those values is free expression. We wanted to make sure that everyone understood we were supporting free expression."

On Oct. 4, Morey tweeted his support for Hong Kong protestors. His tweet included a photo of protestors with the caption, "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong." The Nets and Lakers traveled to China to play in two exhibition games one week later. 

However, a pair of NBA Cares events in Shanghai were canceled as the fallout from Morey's tweet continued. China's state-run TV network, CCTV, suspended its NBA programming due to the controversy. The Chinese basketball federation also canceled upcoming G League exhibition games between teams affiliated with the Rockets and Mavericks.

“We are an American business” is something that should resonate here, but it won’t. For the NBA to put itself into a position where losing revenue from China because of a statement made by someone in the league means that they are heavily leveraged and have no real plan to get out of this mess.

If the NBA figures this out, it will mean that their deals with China will likely not be of the size and scope that their withdrawal could cripple the NBA. Other sports leagues should pay attention. China is headed for a more repressive future, and for more surveillance of what people say and do in the public square. One person’s statements should not cause this level of consternation, but here we are.

And LeBron James should be ashamed of himself.

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