Typically, when fans and social media are being highly critical of a professional sports league, at the center of the discussion is usually the NFL. But not this time. This time, the recipient of all the backlash is the socially aware NBA. It appears that a league that has prided itself at being at the forefront of the social justice movement and free speech doesn’t mean it.
It’s all social media’s fault. If people couldn’t share their thoughts with such ease with the millions and millions of people on Twitter around the world—this whole mess never would have happened. As for the issue at hand….
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey recently sent a tweet out into the Twitter-verse expressing support for the people of Hong Kong.
As could be expected, his tweet did not go over well in China, where the NBA is trying hard to grow its fan base. Chinese officials expressed their displeasure to the league, canceled events, and suspended any dealings with the Rockets.
It’s when the NBA responded that people began to get upset.
Morey deleted his tweet and apologized for offending anyone. James Harden even apologized for his GM. Rockets owner Tillman Fertitta tried to distance himself, and the team from Morey and the NBA issued an apology as well. While the league still recognized Morey’s right to free speech, it gave the appearance of censure for the sake of mending fences with a business partner, China.
It certainly doesn’t help that the NBA has no problem with Joe Tsai, the new owner of the Brooklyn Nets, expressing his opinion on Facebook.
Which Made A Lot Of People Mad
Something like this is like catnip to politicians. Many took to Twitter to voice their displeasure with the NBA for bowing down to the oppressive regime in China:
TV networks,airlines,hotel chains,retailers & Hollywood already self censor.
Now private citizens risk losing their jobs if they offend China. https://t.co/DQOFdBkb1e
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) October 7, 2019
Thousands in Hong Kong are peacefully protesting in support of the same freedom of speech that makes America great. Meanwhile, the NBA seems more worried about losing business than standing up for freedom.
— Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) October 7, 2019
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 7, 2019
There are really way too many politicians chiming in to list even a small portion of their responses. But they all say essentially the same thing. Media pundits from every network chimed in as well:
So the @NBA will boycott Charlotte, NC over transgender bathrooms, but won't boycott China over Muslim internment camps?
— Liz Wheeler (@Liz_Wheeler) October 7, 2019
Follow the money trail, y’all — @disney owns @espn and will do anything to keep China happy. That’s why you’re hearing virtually no criticism of @nba from ESPN’s NBA crew. They’re cronies. Absolutely pathetic. ESPN is even broadcasting from China tomorrow. Silence is deafening.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) October 7, 2019
Stephen A Smith slams Daryl Morey over Hong Kong/China tweet, says Morey should have thought about the Houston Rockets, NBA and Yao Ming pic.twitter.com/Nn0YxxvpV7
— gifdsports (@gifdsports) October 7, 2019
Is The NBA In The Wrong?
Commissioner Adam Silver has tried to defend the league’s actions by insisting they did not censure Morey. He claims the NBA is supporting him. His claim has merit, but what he fails to address is the correlation many are drawing with the NBA’s responses to social injustices in the United States to similar outrages in Hong Kong.
So if the NBA can be ‘woke’ about the topic in the United States, shouldn’t it be the same worldwide?
Fans, politicians, and the media seem to think so. The NBA had a real chance to stand up and practice what it preaches. The league could have made a statement on a global stage. But the NBA seems to think the economic benefits of a relationship with China are more important.