Acts that flagrantly ignore the rights that we Americans believe belong to every person on Earth can be difficult to watch. Not apparently so for the NBA.
For several months, the city of Hong Kong has been embroiled by public protests, some millions strong, against the Chinese government which is now trying to assert control over the once-colonized region that was transferred to the Chinese by the U.K. in the 1990’s. Since then, the Chinese government has slowly been stripping the city of its formerly long list of personal freedoms and protections so that it will fall in line with the rest of the country.
The citizens, however, are not taking kindly to such intrusions into their freedom and have been protesting against their city’s government, which has stood by as the Chinese revoke their ability to speak freely and protest peacefully. In their demonstrations, some even sing American hymns, they quote our founding fathers and they fly the American flag.
This, of course, is not without cause. Despite our internal troubles, many in the world, especially those in particularly oppressed regimes, still see the United States as the ideal for individual liberty and opportunity.
While the people of Hong Kong are faced with a battle against communist tyranny, they see a worthy parallel between their situation and ours from so many years ago. We were resilient in the face of such tyranny and instituted one of the most libertarian democracies still alive today.
But today, some have lost sight of that gift, which was passed down by those who fought for it. Instead, financial considerations have been given controlling weight when there is a conflict between our values and our bottom line.
Earlier last week, the NBA apologized to the Chinese government because Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted a tweet expressing support for the protests in Hong Kong. He posted an image that bore the phrase: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
Later, Morey himself apologized in a tweet that read like he wrote it with a gun to his head.
“I was merely voicing one thought based on one interpretation of one complicated event,” he wrote. “I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”
The truth is, his bosses (rightly) believed that China would retaliate and pull its investments from the NBA. Just one example was Tencent, a state-run tech company (most companies are state-operated under the communist regime) that has invested over $1.5 billion into the league, which said it will not be airing NBA games in China as punishment.
China has invested many billions of dollars not into just the NBA, but other entertainment and media companies along with websites visited by millions of Americans every day. It is part of a long-term strategy to expand the government’s reach to ordinary people in other countries and to quell all instances of outside opposition. Free speech is one of the greatest threats to an oppressive government.
In the days that follow, and as players and executives alike continue to express their regret in an attempt to appease China, many like myself are left wondering whether the NBA even understands the implications of their groveling.
I found the apologies of Morey and other NBA officials to be pathetic and in direct contradiction to our shared values of liberty. I urge those who consider themselves fans of professional basketball to reconsider supporting a league that takes literally billions of dollars from a communist regime that wants to silence all opposition, within its borders and without.
To force a man to apologize merely for expressing a valid political opinion is not just un-American, it’s anti-democratic. It should make Americans think about whether, through the media we choose to consume, we enable dictators and autocrats to sustain their power.