The Jury Talks Back

10/7/2019

NBA General Manager’s Support For Hong Kong Pro-Democracy Protesters Sets Off Firestorm

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dana @ 11:38 am

[guest post by Dana]

To its shame, the NBA has chosen profit over moral rightness by kowtowing to the Chinese government with expressed regret for the Houston Rocket’s GM’s public support for Hong Kong protesters. Daryl Morey’s now-deleted tweet read, simply: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

One expects this reaction from China when publicly – and rightfully – shamed:

The Houston Rockets suddenly find themselves in the middle of a geopolitical controversy that could put their chief front-office executive’s job in jeopardy. After general manager Daryl Morey expressed support in a since-deleted tweet for pro-democracy efforts in Hong Kong, the Chinese government, the Chinese Basketball Association, and various Chinese businesses quickly denounced Morey and moved to sever ties with the Rockets. As a consequence, league sources told The Ringer that Rockets ownership has debated Morey’s employment status and whether to replace him.

On Sunday, the Chinese Basketball Association issued a statement on Weibo—a Chinese social media platform akin to Twitter—and expressed its “strong opposition” to what it called Morey’s “improper remarks regarding Hong Kong.” As a result, the CBA said it was suspending “exchanges and cooperation” with the Rockets. The Chinese Consulate in Houston also issued a statement saying it was “deeply shocked” by Morey’s “erroneous comments” and expressed “strong dissatisfaction.” The consulate also urged the Rockets to “correct the error and take immediate concrete measures to eliminate the adverse impact.”

As Morey and the Rockets are currently in Tokyo to take part in the NBA’s preseason games in Asia, Morey clarified his original post:

I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives. I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them wasn’t my intention.

Because mitigating the impact of a huge financial backlash and maintaining the lucrative business relationship with China remains the priority, one would be foolish to believe that the NBA would react in any way other than to assume a submissive position before China :

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.

By focusing on the financial bottom line, it’s easy for the NBA to reduce the laundry list of humanitarian abuses by the Chinese government to little more than a “cultural divide”. But in what world is the amoral detention of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Uighers and the harvesting of human organs simply a “cultural divide,” and one that can be “bridged” by playing basketball and making money? Financial wealth does not beget a functioning moral compass. Sadly, with profits being the deciding factor, financial interests and interactions with China will remain business as usual :

One of the most inflammatory developments in America’s ongoing cultural conflict has been the decision of so-called “woke capital” to use its considerable commercial power to threaten or impose economic sanctions on American states that implement public policies it doesn’t like. We’ve seen this play out many, many times — from boycotts against Indiana when it had the audacity to expand religious-liberty protections in the state, to punitive measures against North Carolina after it passed its so-called “bathroom bill,” and to threats against Georgia in opposition to its own religious-liberty bill and then its abortion restrictions. Progressive corporate America has made its position clear. It will take a moral stand, even if that stand potentially hurts the bottom line.

It’s always been hard to take that position seriously, however, when many of the same companies happily do immense amounts of business in the People’s Republic of China, a regime that systematically and ruthlessly crushes dissent. In China, the boycotts and bold stands are few and far between. Instead, there are glittering movie premieres, gleaming new factories, and intense marketing campaigns — all aimed at opening up one of the world’s most lucrative markets.

But are there limits? As we watch Hong Kong police beat pro-democracy protesters and as Twitter fills with images of police and military force massing near the border, will corporate America remember its morals? Will it use its commercial and cultural power to punish China if the government intervenes? Or will it be business as usual for America’s woke corporate giants?

While Morey waits to hear whether he will be replaced, the owner of the Houston Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, wants you to know that the team is not a political organization:

Finally, in what shouldn’t be a surprise but is, the actions of NBA are being rightfully condemned by both side of the political aisle.

–Dana

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