Patterico's Pontifications


More On The Continuing NBA Firestorm

Filed under: General — Dana @ 7:29 pm

[guest post by Dana]

I figured that if I waited another 24 hours before doing a follow-up to my post on the story, President Trump would have thrown his two cents worth into the mix too. And I was right.

While the fallout over Houston Rocket’s GM’s now-deleted tweet voicing support for Hong Kong continues in China with the cancellation of NBA Cares events, it looks like no one is going to come out of this covered in glory. I’m looking directly at you, NBA.

First, with teammate Russell Westbrook at his side, Houston Rockets start James Harden apologized to China rather than throwing his support behind Hong Kong’s freedom fighters:

We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.

We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them, and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as [an] organization.

Note: Both Harden and Westbrook travel to China one a year during the NBA offseason for business – endorsement purposes and to promote their brands.

Also, NBA commissioner Adam Silver weighed in on the matter:

Silver went so far as to say that he and the league are “apologetic” over the outcome and reaction that followed Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s tweet showing support for protesters in Hong Kong, but he noted that “we are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression.”

“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees,” Silver said. “What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”

He added that he “regrets” how so many Chinese people and NBA fans were upset by the now-deleted tweet.

Silver said it would be appropriate for people involved with the league “to be sensitive” to different cultures when tweeting or communicating. He spoke in Tokyo before a preseason game between the NBA champion Toronto Raptors and Rockets.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV was unhappy with Silver:

“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” the statement read. “We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

Silver was then compelled to release a more clarifying statement. You can read it in full here. However, in part:

Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China. We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.

At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs. And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world.

But for those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.

Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.

In fact, one of the enduring strengths of the NBA is our diversity — of views, backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and religions. Twenty-five percent of NBA players were born outside of the United States and our colleagues work in league offices around the world, including in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei.

With that diversity comes the belief that whatever our differences, we respect and value each other; and, what we have in common, including a belief in the power of sports to make a difference, remains our bedrock principle.

It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.

However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.

He concludes with:

[W]e believe sports can be a unifying force that focuses on what we have in common as human beings rather than our differences.

I know I already railed about this in the previous post about the NBA and China, but it bears repeating: The brutal dictatorship of China has imprisoned untold hundreds of thousands of China’s ethnic minority Muslim Uyghurs in order to “re-educate” them, and is perpetrating an horrendous abuse of organ harvesting against any number of Uyghur prisoners. Reportedly, at least half a million children have been forcefully separated from their parents, and placed in pre-school camps with prison-style surveillance systems and 10.000 volt electric fences. Any dissent from the Chinese people is immediately punished, any violations of speech in public is met with swift and putative consequences, and citizens disappear, are tortured, and even put to death by the heavy-handed tyrants in charge for any number of infractions. They have an appalling record of human rights violations.

Further, to make matters worse, the NBA is willingly turning a blind eye to this as they not only do business within China’s borders, but they also run a training camp in the same region where the Muslim Uyghurs are being imprisoned:

In the northwestern Chinese region of Xinjiang, Chinese authorities are holding roughly a million Muslims in what government propaganda creepily calls “free hospital treatment for the masses with sick thinking”—in other words, concentration camps. Because of the difficulties of visiting the camps, and because Beijing downplays their existence, firsthand information is sparse. However, satellite photos, innovative research on government procurement bids, and excellent reporting by foreign journalists prove their existence. Some inmates are tortured. Others are forced to sit for hours singing songs praising the ruling Chinese Communist Party.


[D]oing business right in the midst of a campaign that some human rights groups have described as genocide is another thing entirely—and most U.S. companies have unsurprisingly given Xinjiang a wide berth. Yet one of the exceptions is striking: the National Basketball Association. In Oct. 2016, the NBA set up one of its three Chinese training centers in, of all places, Ürümqi, the capital of Xinjiang and site of massive race riots in 2009 that left hundreds dead. The center, which houses roughly 240 student-athletes ages 14 to 18, according to its website, has kept a very low profile. That’s unsurprising—because the NBA presence in Xinjiang is shameful.

Over the past few years, Xinjiang has become ground zero for a repressive revolution into a total control state. Think less George Orwell and more Michel Foucault, the philosopher of power who described a system of total control as a “cruel, ingenious cage.”

And here is the cruel hypocrisy of Adam Silver:

Operating in such a place seems antithetical to the public stance of a league that has recently gone out of its way to tout its progressive, social-justice bona fides. After the Trump travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority nations, prominent NBA figures took the side of the critics. League commissioner Adam Silver took the unusual step of criticizing the ban, saying “it goes against the fundamental values and the fundamental ingredients of what makes for a great NBA.”

But the bottom line is always money, and it speaks more loudly than anything else. Especially for the NBA:

China, with its market of 1.4 billion potential fans, offers great hope for basketball’s future, and Beijing presumably approves of the league’s willingness to work in Xinjiang—both because it helps bring development to a relatively poor region and because it helps legitimize the repression against Uighurs. The league and its stars are phenomenally popular throughout the country, including Xinjiang. Zhou Qi, the only Chinese player in the NBA last season, formerly played for the region’s team, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers. A number of prominent NBA players including Patty Mills, Kenyon Martin, and Jordan Crawford have also spent time on that team.

But the NBA should no longer engage with Xinjiang. Yes, it will offend some Chinese fans, and Chinese sports regulators might make it more difficult to bring NBA games to a Chinese audience. But the alternative is to continue to help China whitewash a network of concentration camps.

San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who loathes Trump and is an outspoken social justice advocate, came to Silver’s side in an interview:

“He’s been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous,” Popovich told reporters at the Spurs-Miami Heat preseason game Tuesday. “Compared to what we’ve had to live through the last three years, there’s a big difference gap there leadership-wise and courage-wise.”

Gosh, what we’ve had to live through ?? Can you imagine what the Muslim Uyghurs have to live through, each and every day??

Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was asked to weigh in on the matter. Let’s give him first prize for either being the most uninformed, clueless goober on the planet or the biggest lying suck-up in the room. Disgraceful:

“A lot of us don’t know what to make of it, it’s something I’m reading about… but I’m not going to comment,” he said. “What I’ve found is that it’s easy to speak on issues that I’m passionate about and that I feel like I’m well-versed on and I’ve found that it makes the most sense to stick to topics that fall in that category.”

And finally, President Trump, who just recently congratulated China on the 70th anniversary of communist rule and complimented President Xi for “acting responsibly” during the Hong Kong protests, also weighed in on the matter:

…telling reporters outside the White House that “the NBA knows what they are doing,” when asked with he thought about the situation.

Trump then attacked Golden State Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr, referencing a recent news conference when Kerr called the situation “a really bizarre international story” that a lot of us “don’t know what to make of.”

“I watched this guy, Steve Kerr, he was so scared. He was like a little boy, he didn’t know how to answer the question and he was shaking,” Trump said.

He also took aim at Gregg Popovich, coach of the San Antonio Spurs, accusing Popovich and Kerr of “pandering to China.”

I just can’t even.

(Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.)


58 Responses to “More On The Continuing NBA Firestorm”

  1. Some individuals are indeed making a stand for Hong Kong and the Uyghurs too: this is a great thread.

    Dana (05f22b)

  2. The NBA is extremely popular in China, as is basketball, in general. It shouldn’t sell its own leverage short. The NBA and other American businesses need to be consistent champions of what are supposed to be American values.

    The same goes for POTUS. Never kowtow to Chinese bullying.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  3. “It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.”

    Funny what differences they choose to adjudicate. A “bathroom bill” snd travel ban both qualify. Free speech and democracy does not.

    And Steve Kerr is a royal POS.

    Munroe (53beca)

  4. I’m not the least bit into half-naked young men prancing around with a ball, but I enjoy seeing rich jerkoffs squirming at the prospect of a dollar slipping out of their grubby little hands. Also, if it helps bring more attention to what’s going on in Hong Kong and China ….

    nk (dbc370)

  5. The situation with Blizzard and gaming is even larger than the joke of a situation with the NBA.

    NJRob (ba88af)

  6. nk’s got a point. I never would have known about this Morey guy or his tweet if China hadn’t freaked out about it.

    Chinese state broadcaster CCTV was unhappy with Silver:

    “We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” the statement read. “We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

    I really wish profanity didn’t trigger the filter here. At any rate, evil is real empowered these days.

    Dustin (6d7686)

  7. The NBA and Activision Blizzard know what side their bread is buttered on.

    In America, you have a potential market of up to 330 million men, women, and children. In China alone there exists a market of over 1 billion people. Billion. With a B. I’d love nothing more than to believe that the outrage from the West will make a difference, but mathematically speaking, the odds are slim.

    Gryph (08c844)

  8. Hey, if you’re James Harden, and you have a $200 million shoe deal whose financials depend on being able to manufacture shoes cheaply overseas which will then sell for 100 times their unit cost to American boys living in Section 8 housing, you can’t afford to worry about something as esoteric as free speech.

    Everyone knows Harden is weak on defense anyway.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  9. The NBA and other American businesses need to be consistent champions of what are supposed to be American values.

    Amen, Colonel. And if Adam Silver is serious when he says that the NBA will not punish its players or front office staff for exercising their free speech rights, even if it does irk in the commies in Peking, then I say good for Silver. But it is very true that a league who wanted to punish North Carolina for outlawing transgender bathrooms looks pretty craven for gladly doing business in a totalitarian state. Here, I am of course speaking about California.

    JVW (54fd0b)

  10. One thing this has done is make it clear that bullsh*t advocacy for speech, freedoms, and democracy by NBA members is just that. These weenies are pathetically transparent, only willing to jaw on and scold others about social justice issues.

    Dana (05f22b)

  11. Heh, these craven fools would put a hockey rink in kolyma, as general spaulding pointed out the compromise with china isnt anywhere that balanced, its a industrial policy type arrangement where moneys atay in china and western technology doesnt get out.

    narciso (d1f714)

  12. Dana, this is Rich Lowry’s take on that Google Ughyurs sign

    Kishnevi (7595ea)

  13. The Chinese know exactly what “American value$” truly are.

    W/apologies to TR: “If you’ve got them by the basketball$; their heart$ and mind$ will follow.”


    DCSCA (797bc0)

  14. Harden sucks. Our two sons were good HS b-ball players and they both follow NBA ball with an intense interest. They both agree about Harden and that headcase Westbrook.

    Agree about California, JVW. Our state can’t even keep power up in a 20 mph breeze. We are the Third World state and we suck.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  15. 13… more like BillClintonomics, Truth he told, chachi.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  16. Some combination of san angeles from demoliyion man and strange days

    narciso (d1f714)

  17. Rick dees has that line, like a broke down eight trac tape, how about uk whers they cant give up their yoohoo i mean huawei.

    narciso (d1f714)

  18. The situation with Blizzard and gaming is even larger than the joke of a situation with the NBA.

    I don’t think I agree.

    An NBA owner expressing an opinion on his personal Twitter account seems different to me than a competitor using a sponsored competition to carry out a political protest.

    If they let Blitzchung use their platform for politics, where does it end? How long until pro-/anti-Trump rants start to follow every match? Why is Blizzard required to allow its employees (and that’s what these pro players are) to turn its products into political soapboxes?

    Dave (1bb933)

  19. @7: As some SNL dude said many years ago, if you’re a one-in-a-million kind of guy in China there’s still a thousand guys just like you.

    I didn’t know about the Blizzard story. Incredible. They’re in Irvine. Must be the UCI influence.

    Munroe (53beca)

  20. You go, ESPN!

    What can you expect from the craven cowards at Disney…

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  21. In response, Blizzard killed the interview midstream. Then the company suspended Chung for a year. It also said he would no longer receive his prize money, which was about $10,000, according to Chung.

    “Engaging in any act that, in Blizzard’s sole discretion, brings you into public disrepute, offends a portion or group of the public, or otherwise damages Blizzard image will result in removal from Grandmasters and reduction of the player’s prize total to $0 USD,” wrote the company in a statement.

    Blizzard also fired the two employees who were responsible for setting up the interview.

    Munroe (53beca)

  22. Hopefully the NBA will wake up about China. Ben Simmons made a 3 so miracles can happen, even in the NBA.

    DRJ (15874d)

  23. 19… that one fellow is sure telling Blizzard where they can put their game controllers.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  24. I wonder if they’ll run out of people willing to take money to play video games?

    Dave (1bb933)

  25. If your most important value is money, all your others are for sail.

    Nic (896fdf)

  26. *sale

    Nic (896fdf)

  27. But you can tell Harden and Westbrook are true native Californians from birth to college by the fact they haven’t tried to wrangle their way into the Warriors, Lakers or Clips preferring to stay on their teams in low/no state income tax OK and TX.

    urbanleftbehind (290829)

  28. Image:
    “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.”


    Munroe (53beca)

  29. From the Russian hoax to the fake impeachment inquiry, never trumpers have been radically intent on keeping attention away from their own dealings in Ukraine. Collusion is real, and never trumpers are desperate to keep us from learning more about it. Never Trumpers have hands and feet in the pie. So lets talk NBA.

    mg (8cbc69)

  30. Anyone else appreciate the irony of using attacked and targeted to describe a comment made by POTUS? I know the game is to criticize DJT at every opportunity but this speech as violence notion is part of the anti-free speech arguments.

    Frosty, Fp (f27e97)

  31. “Appreciate” is not the right word, but I do *see* the irony that verbal attacks against our fellow Americans whose President he purports to be are the only kinds of attacks the superannuated sissy-boy is capable of.

    nk (dbc370)

  32. We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.

    Sounds like the motto of half the campuses in the U.S.

    Bored Lawyer (423ce8)

  33. mg (#30):

    never trumpers have been radically intent on keeping attention away from their own dealings in Ukraine.

    Please define —

    “Nevertrumper”. I assume these are Republicans who hate Trump in public or private. (Romney, Ryan, French, etc). I don’t think the term includes Democrats.

    “Their own dealing in the Ukraine”. Who in the land of Nevertrump has had a thing to do with the Ukraine? Even in the most conspiracy of conspiracy theories, the bad people are Bidens or maybe some Obamaclinton affiliated Democrats.

    Appalled (1a17de)

  34. @34 this is the “I’m rubber you’re glue” defense strategy

    Time123 (ca85c9)

  35. Off-topic, but related to sports:

    When I die, I want 6 L.A. Dodgers to be my pallbearers. That way, the team can let me down one last time.

    Chuck Bartowski (bc1c71)

  36. If they let Blitzchung use their platform for politics, where does it end? How long until pro-/anti-Trump rants start to follow every match? Why is Blizzard required to allow its employees (and that’s what these pro players are) to turn its products into political soapboxes?

    Dave (1bb933) — 10/9/2019 @ 9:04 pm

    Then you are unaware of the finances involved or the duplicity of Blizzard when it comes to the situation in Eastern and Western markets. They’re pulling the Arafat card and saying 2 different things in 2 different languages.

    They are also virulently leftist on their platforms where they promote certain speech in their western platforms, see their homosexual causes push, but don’t in their Eastern markets.

    NJRob (4d595c)

  37. OMG the NBA Is worse than Trump.

    rcocean (1a839e)

  38. Former lead designer for Blizzard and one of the people behind the relaunch of WoW Classic speaks out against Blizzard kowtowing to China.

    NJRob (4d595c)

  39. 38. Make no mistake, it’s not about decorum. It’s not about avoiding politics. Activision Blizzard will polish Chinese knob every day and twice on Sundays if it helps their bottom line.

    Gryph (08c844)

  40. g’s dictionary – never trumper – anyone hating Trump

    mg (8cbc69)

  41. What is clear is that all that matters to these companies is the bottom line. Chinese money talks; American values walks.

    The only way to combat this is to hit them where it hurts — in the wallet. The NBA wants to support tyranny? Fine, they are not getting my support. Stay home, tune out. That is capitalism at work.

    Bored Lawyer (998177)

  42. Chna not only removed that south Park episode from the Chinese Internet they removed all mention of South Park. It went into the memory hole.

    And they were doing the same thing for the Houston Rockets.

    This is not without precedent. Practically all famous (or not famous) Chinese writers between 1898 and 1948 were alo put into the memory hole long ago.

    You want to punish China> Find out who thse people are, and republish their work in Chinese.

    Sammy Finkelman (dcc9ca)

  43. “see their homosexual causes push”

    – NJRob

    What are Blizzard’s “homosexual causes”? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Leviticus (efada1)

  44. Tell me more about how “bad Trump’s” tariffs are interference with the “free market” of craven companies that abandoned their country, their patriotism, and now their morals, in electing to manufacture in China.

    Harcourt Fenton Mudd (0c349e)

  45. the point being, since 1989, the leading corporate government and even media figures, have given the Bronx cheer to any repercussions from tienamamen, and this accelerated since the admission to the wto in 1999,

    narciso (d1f714)

  46. I don’t believe that this move by the NBA is going to work.

    NEW YORK, NY—In an effort to salvage its relationship with China, the NBA is now requiring all players to stand for the Chinese national anthem at the beginning of every game.

    Paul Montagu (88b43e)

  47. This is the same nba who pushed for boycotting israel.

    narciso (d1f714)

  48. But then all the Chinese around them will be arrested for not standing up, even though they had.

    nk (dbc370)

  49. This is another bad decision.

    The Portland Trail Blazers announced that they have severed relations with a company that does business with Israel following a pressure campaign by activists tied to the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.

    I don’t see something like this happening when Paul Allen was alive.

    Paul Montagu (88b43e)

  50. Just doing what comes natural to Portlandians, Paul.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  51. If you haven’t watched that China South Park episode yet, you really should. Very funny!

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

  52. Apple pulled an app popular w/Hong Kong protesters, too, to placate China.

    It’s all about the $$.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  53. The most insidious enemy of freedom is capitalism.

    nk (dbc370)

  54. The notion that technology can be value neutral in practice

    narciso (d1f714)

  55. 1. Basketball currently exists to sell shoes.
    2. The NBA reports to Nike
    3. Obama visited Nike, Inc. in 2015 and addressed his support for the TPP, which he said would benefit China, and Nike, among others.
    4. Trump moved the U.S. away from the TPP
    5. NBA coaches Steve Kerr and Greg Popovich, among others, use their positions to attack the guy pushing the policies that do not benefit China, the NBA, and Nike.
    6. Expect more stupid statements from Kerr, Popovich and many others who love the almighty dollar more than their own country.

    Colonel Haiku (2601c0)

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