NBA set to end relations with China

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Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Because in 2019 nothing is surprising anymore, the National Basketball Association – the popularity of an entity based on adults forming teams to put an orange sphere in a basket – is embroiled in a geopolitical scandal (???) with the whole ass country of China (!!!) This is really happening, and although you probably don’t come to Illustrated sports for hot geopolitical discussions (especially when you see my signature), let me offer you the quickest recap of this situation, as it took another turn on Tuesday.

It all started when Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who could one day be considered Archduke Franz Ferdinand of World War III, sent a completely benign tweet (since deleted) about the protests for civil rights in Hong Kong. Morey’s tweet, “Fight for freedom, stand in solidarity with Hong Kong,” is the intellectual equivalent of Little Debbie tweeting “Never forget” on September 11, which is the most basic expression. of an ideal without controversy: freedom. The fallout from Morey’s comment, however, was swift.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta left Morey’s comments behind the organization. The NBA issued a weak statement in an attempt to crash into the fence, apologizing to China but without fully condemning Morey. Meanwhile, Morey – as well as Rockets star James Harden, one way or another – sensing the business consequences of China’s wrath, has also apologized. The pardon request didn’t help – Chinese online stores have pulled Rockets merchandise from their websites, and streaming giant Tencent has said it will refuse to show Rockets games.

All of this brought us to Tuesday morning, when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, via a press release and a conference in Tokyo, offered much more cohesive thoughts on the incident. While Chinese state broadcaster CCTV (a little on the nose!) Announced that it would not be showing upcoming NBA preseason games in Shanghai and Shenzhen, Silver said the league supports the right. de Morey to freedom of speech, and even if he hopes to meet business partners soon. in Shanghai to allay concerns, for now at least, Silver says the league will live with the economic consequences of the tweet. Phew.

Silver’s comments on Tuesday were a step in the right direction. The speed at which the NBA surrendered to China in the wake of Morey’s tweet was embarrassing. Nets owner Joe Tsai’s long attempt to explain why the Chinese are particularly sensitive to the situation in Hong Kong conveniently ignored Tsai’s own business interests, the use of propaganda to sow confusion and misinformation to the Chinese public, as well as a misrepresentation of the protests in Hong Kong, which stem from going too far in extradition laws.

If your head is spinning a little, it’s because the more you try to unravel the NBA’s relationship with China, the more moral dilemmas you run into. Morey deleting his tweet was perhaps just a public example of the erasure that all too often occurs when American companies do business with China. Even Disney, which essentially owns 96% of U.S. companies, has acquiesced in Chinese political concerns in the past, as there is apparently a huge difference in how the world works though. Avengers: Endgame made $ 3 billion versus $ 2.5 billion.

Silver’s plan for the future is a bit selfish. He basically wants strange eye the situation, hoping that through face-to-face interaction with Chinese NBA partners, he can mend the rift between the two sides, without forcing Morey to apologize while expressing some level of sympathy, then the NBA and China can continue to earn billions of dollars together by acting like nothing has happened. Silver’s plan is essentially a hint of diplomacy that is really meant to protect the league’s business interests. But at what cost ?

We’ve now seen what China is ready to do on a tweet that theoretically most of its audience couldn’t even see because Twitter is blocked in the country. It goes beyond the NBA, and much smarter people than I can explain how we got here, but the globalization of China’s economy has done little to bring its government closer to Western ideals of democracy. Instead, powerful American corporations regularly find themselves bending over backwards for China, as the country doesn’t hesitate to weigh in on even the slightest charge, and the money is too big for cheeky capitalists to fall for. care about principles.

Adam Silver’s job is basically to put a friendly face on the money-hungry side of the NBA. And he’s done a good job of portraying his actions as progressive when they could just as easily be seen as smart business practices. But continuing the league’s partnership with China following the Morey incident would be a particularly slippery slope.

The NBA has already made a moral sacrifice doing business in a country that oppresses its people. Currently, the league is holding training camps at an academy in Xianjiang, the same province in which China currently interns one million Muslims. Again, Morey’s fiasco is just a public example of how the NBA can be subdued to China. What else don’t we know? What will Silver say in private meetings with partners?

The only way the NBA can wash its hands of these problems is to leave China entirely. It would be an unpopular decision. Players and owners alike depend on the Chinese market for an economic boost. Fans, too, would likely be a little upset when those salary cap projections were a little lower due to declining earnings.

But it’s hard to see the cat getting back in the bag here. It would take Yeoman’s work for Silver to somehow capitulate privately while publicly supporting Morey. China is already asking too much if it gets upset over a tweet. And it’s not the NBA that should apologize or soften up after the events that unfolded. Cutting ties would not only pressure the Chinese government to bring back something its people have grown to love, it could perhaps reveal more blatantly how China is willing to manipulate its people according to the how the split would be framed by the state. run the media.

The money will almost certainly protect the business interests of the NBA in the end, because that’s how our rapidly disintegrating world works. After all, he doesn’t work for Morey. He works for guys Fertitta and Tsai, the latter of which is worth $ 9.5 billion, and yet he barely makes the list of the 150 richest people in the world. As long as China demands zero tolerance, however, the NBA should end the relationship, instead of expanding the scope of its moral sacrifices.


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