The NBA has found itself right smack dab in the middle of the U.S./China tensions. Now that the pro sports organization has made it clear where its allegiances lie – which is with its multi-billion-dollar Chinese business over Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey – lawmakers are piling on. Texas Senator Ted Cruz criticized the pro basketball league, saying in a tweet that it has become an “instrument of Chinese censorship.” Indeed, Americans are getting a front-row seat to how a communist country operates, and the NBA is tripping over itself to behave. In an interview on CNBC, Cruz defended Morey and the Hong Kong protestors who are fighting for the very freedoms that Americans enjoy.
“There’s big money in China. And the NBA, NBA teams make a whole lot of money broadcasting in China…This really shows how China tries to use economic coercion and blackmail to get American companies to engage in censorship. What Daryl Morey said was perfectly reasonable.”
The NBA’s decision to succumb to the Chinese government’s strongarming must have cut to the core for Cruz, who is not only a basketball fan but plays some pickup himself. He was challenged to a one-on-one game by Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang. It’s not China-sized NBA revenue, but the two politicians did attach a $5,000 reward to the wager, which the loser will have to pay to the winner’s non-political charity of choice.
While Daryl Morey is taking the brunt of the heat for the NBA, he’s not the only one in China’s crosshairs. The Hong Kong Free Press reports that China has issued a warning shot to iPhone maker Apple, accusing the tech giant of “unwise and reckless” behavior and reportedly threatening “consequences.”
A People’s Daily op-ed reportedly is in a huff about an app in the App Store that works kind of like police radar designed for Hong Kong protestors. Apple generates billions of dollars in quarterly revenue from China, and similar to the NBA has already made concessions by reportedly removing the Taiwan flag emoji from on iOS keyboards in Hong Kong and Macau.
The NBA and Apple both have accumulated cult-like followings, so much so that one basketball fan took things a little too far. Reports reveal that after the Houston Rockets were suspended in China, a die-hard fan of the team threatened to burn the Chinese flag, saying “I live and die with my team” and “Come and catch me.” They did, and now his fate hangs in the balance.