The NBA probably wants nothing more than for the whole mess with China about Daryl Morey’s pro-Hong Kong tweet to just go away. But thanks to how the league initially reacted, that isn’t going to happen anytime soon. Protesters have been showing up to preseason games, and the media can’t stop talking about it. It’s a cause people believe in.
Since the NBA seemed more concerned about angering China than anything else (at first), fans are not going to let it go. It will not matter how hard the NBA tries to silence protesters or keep them out of the spotlight.
They will find a way to be heard—N or by interrupting the dance-cam on opening night.
It’ something the Clippers like to do during games. The arena plays the song “Gangnam Style” while a cameraman shows little kids doing the dance on the Jumbotron—because who doesn’t like little kids doing silly dances on the Jumbotron, right?
This cameraman probably doesn’t anymore:
Knowing that all eyes would be on Los Angeles for the season opener between the Lakers and Clippers Tuesday night, protesters made sure their presence would be felt. Before the game, several were out in front of the Staples Center handing out about 13,000 pro-Hong Kong t-shirts reading “Fight for freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.”
A Lakers fan started a GoFundMe page to raise money to make the t-shirts. The opening paragraph on the fundraising page read:
China is trying to censor the Houston Rockets (update: and now the ENTIRE NBA) because of Hong Kong. Wouldn’t it be hilarious if on opening night in Staples Center the NBA fanbase made a collective demonstration against censorship by wearing “STAND WITH HONG KONG” T-Shirts?
While the initial goal was to raise $20,000, nearly $43,000 was raised.
As could be expected, security at the Staples Center wasn’t too happy about it.
A similar giveaway took place in Canada at the Toronto Raptors home opener. A group of fans there raised over $34,000 through a GoFundMe page and made 7,000 t-shirts.
Apparently, their cameraman was able to avoid little kids holding the t-shirt during the game.
The NBA’s hierarchy is going to kick themselves someday over how they handled this whole sordid affair. It is not hard to understand why they would want to salvage the business relationship with China. So far, it appears to be disappearing anyway.
In the end, the league is going to lose a ton of money. But because of how they initially handled the mess, the league also lost the respect of millions of fans. Yes, Adam Silver did give Daryl Morey support after the fact, but it is what the league initially did that has stuck (and will be what people remember).
But had they, and stars like LeBron James, reacted by supporting and agreeing with Morey, they would have lost all the business they ended up losing. However, the league would have also gained millions of fans by placing more importance on human rights than money. In time, that legion of new fans would have translated into a whole lot of money.