The trouble started when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the people of Hong Kong who are fighting back against violent repression by Chinese authorities. The statement was not particularly controversial in the United States. However, as it turns out, like the Hollywood film and TV industry, the National Basketball Association is deriving a great deal of income from exhibition games and TV broadcasts inside China. The Chinese government reacted with typical fury against Morey’s sentiment, according to ESPN.
“China’s official basketball association, headed by Hall of Famer and Rockets great Yao Ming, said it would suspend cooperation with the team, calling Morey’s tweet ‘improper remarks regarding Hong Kong’ to which it expressed its ‘strong opposition.’ Chinese state television and Tencent — a major media partner with ESPN and the NBA in China, with a streaming deal that is worth $1.5 billion total over the next five years — then said they would not be showing Rockets games.”
Ming’s involvement raised some eyebrows in Houston. When he played for the Rockets, the Chinese born athlete was very popular with basketball fans.
Did the NBA stand firm with one of their own against Chinese tyranny, even at the cost of a considerable amount of money? Of course not. The National Basketball Association fell all over itself to kowtow to the Chinese and throw Daryl Morey under the bus. The NBA released a statement apologizing for the “insensitivity” that Morey’s tweet suggested. The statement expressed “great respect” for Chinese history and culture. At the same time the Rockets’ owner and some of the players decried his sentiment, Morey was forced to walk back his original tweet.
“1. 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.”
Morey went on to tweet, “2. 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 was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”
The support that the NBA offered to a regime that is throwing ethnic Muslim Uyghurs into reeducation camps, seeking to commit genocide through sterilization and forced abortions, and which is setting up a dystopian surveillance state that is right out of the George Orwell novel ‘1984’ has not escaped the notice of American politicians. They reacted in bipartisan fury.
Both Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas and Beto O’Rourke, who had tried to take away Cruz’s senate seat, condemned the action taken by the NBA. Other politicians expressing anger over the NBA’s kowtowing to China included Sen Rick Scott, R-Florida, Julian Castro, Sen Ben Sasse, R-NE, and Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-CA. All condemned the NBA for their choice of money over doing the right thing.
The controversy over the NBA’s kowtowing to China comes at a time when the politicization of major league sports has roiled fans across the United States. The protests by some NFL players like Colin Kaepernick by kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem. The imbroglio has hurt the NFL’s bottom line, though Kaepernick, now a former player, has made millions with a Nike shoe endorsement contract.
The controversy was also fraught with irony because a recent episode of “South Park” dealt with the influence China wields on American popular culture, using its large market as a whip to force producers to follow its line. “South Park,” needless to say, has been expunged from China’s Internet streaming service.
Ordinary people are still seething over the actions of the NBA. Already people are taking to social media to call for a boycott of NBA games once basketball season starts. Hot Air speculates that professional basketball may suffer the same way that football has.
“Maybe if the league’s hypocrisy and greed are offensive enough, US fans might start treating them like China does … and do the same with the NFL, MLB, NHL, and so on.”