As you have no doubt heard about, there are pro-democracy protests going on right now in Hong Kong. This is significant because of the fact that Hong Kong is a part of China, a communist country, and there are high tensions between the two. Hong Kong used to be a British colony, but it was eventually given back to China. Recently, the NBA was thrown into the midst of this political fire storm.
The Houston Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted his support for the Hong Kong protestors. This sparked outrage among Chinese supporters and the Chinese government. The NBA was pressured to condemn the tweet, but NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a statement declaring to support all free speech of any kind.
I personally believe the NBA was right to not condemn Daryl Morey’s tweet because it is important to protect free speech. China has censored Twitter, and so it is important that the NBA stand up to China and not pander to them just for money. The NBA has to show the world that it will not throw their employees under the bus when pressured by a foreign country. Since the NBA is an international organization, with offices in every country excluding Antarctica, it is important that they display a strong image.
China is a country that seeks to bully the NBA into accomplishing parts of their agenda. It’s an important issue, and Adam Silver is right to stand up to this. Many Chinese companies decided to stop cooperating with the NBA, and some companies like Tencent Sports, which usually live streams the games, has decided to stop doing so.
According to Tencent Sports, 500 million viewers watched NBA programming last season. All 11 of the NBA’s official partners in China have cut ties with the NBA. The Chinese public has been calling for boycotts of the games in China, and two G League games have already been canceled.
Merchandise has also been pulled from stores in China, and all media access has been canceled by the NBA itself. This controversy is happening at the same time as the trade talks between China and the U.S. The U.S. has put 28 Chinese entities on a blacklist that prevents them from importing American technology. This is because those entities had an alleged role in human rights abuses in China’s Xinjiang region.
The U.S. also has tariffs on Chinese imports, a tax Chinese companies must pay in order to bring their products to the U.S. The Hong Kong protests are a delicate topic that the NBA should have navigated more carefully. However, they had a good response to the backlash from both China and the U.S. Adam Silver is showing how progressive the NBA is by protecting basic rights of the NBA’s employees.
China is attempting to bully the NBA into condemning their employees with the threat of lower earnings with such a large market shut off. By showing how they will not give into China’s threats, the NBA is displaying their backbone, and how progressive they are.