North Texas Daily

The NBA shouldn’t be apologizing to China

The NBA shouldn’t be apologizing to China

The NBA shouldn’t be apologizing to China
October 12
16:43 2019

Earlier this week, four decades of dealmaking arrived at the brink of dissolving all because of one man’s tweet. Daryl Morey, the general manager for the Houston Rockets, tweeted a photo on Oct. 4 showing support for protestors in Hong Kong, sparking negative feedback from not only the NBA’s Chinese fanbase, but from critics stateside as well.

In response, the NBA backed down, supporting Morey’s freedom of expression, but simultaneously apologizing to fans in China, showing that the league cares more about money than issues that directly affect human rights.

The protests, which began in April, were in response to an extradition bill proposed by the Hong Kong government that would allow local governments to capture and send off wanted fugitives to two areas that didn’t have prior extradition agreements — Taiwan and mainland China. Even after the bill was suspended and taken off the ballot, protests continued. The protests occurred for fear that Hong Kong would fall under the control of the Chinese Communist Party.

Morey’s tweet read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” sparking a response from Rockets’ owner Tilman Fertitta, who stated that Houston’s involvement with China was strictly financial and that the organization had no concern with political happenings.

The NBA then went on to release two different statements, an English one in the United States and a Chinese one in China. The two differed greatly in the rhetoric of their opening statements, changing from, “We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have offended so many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable,” to, “We are extremely disappointed by the inappropriate remarks made by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, who has undoubtedly seriously hurt the feelings of our Chinese fans.”

Not only did the NBA bow to China in regards to the “insult,” but they were too cowardly to line the rhetoric up evenly.

The NBA and team ownership should not be so quick to shoot down political statements for fear of a loss of funds. In recent years, the NBA has grown to become the most welcoming of the four big sports leagues in the U.S. (MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL). But with its reactions, and the reactions of stars such as James Harden, the NBA has proven that it is just another money-grabbing organization. When one of your biggest stars is apologizing for the support of legal, democratic actions, you’re in a bad place.

To openly support a country that is in the middle of stifling protests in favor of civil liberties and democracy while representing the largest free nation in the world shows a massive level of irony that can only be attributed to the open wallets of league executives.

More so, to expect Morey to keep his political thoughts to himself and just play along with what his boss wants him to think is to think like a fool. Upper-level executives will never reciprocate that and we shouldn’t expect either party to.

Backlash came running in to greet Morey from China and from around the league, including executives. Brooklyn Nets owner Joseph Tsai, who was raised in Taiwan (his parents were born in mainland China), called the protests a “third-rail issue,” citing them as something that would offend anyone proud to be Chinese.

Since Morey’s statement, China, who holds authoritarian control over the economy, won’t broadcast or stream the preseason games that are being played in the country at this time. Three Chinese companies have since suspended cooperation with the NBA: China Central Television, Vivo and Tencent. The last of these three had a five-year partnership with the NBA to stream matches in China worth $1.5 billion.

The NBA is a private business at the end of the day, and is therefore able to make its own decisions. Regardless, we should hold our professionals to a high standard in the industries and countries that they support and do business with. The NBA and its stars shouldn’t be apologizing to a foreign country for the opinion of a single man.

American businesses should not be afraid to criticize a government in fear of losing out on deals, and when members of their organizations do speak out, they shouldn’t be shamed for it. A private company would never return that favor, so Morey shouldn’t be expected to keep quiet and apologize.

Featured Illustration: Miranda Thomas

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Zachary Cottam

Zachary Cottam

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