NBA vs. China

CNN reports on the turmoil in the NBA’s relationship with China. The problems, per CNN, are all Daryl Morey’s fault:

A simple image consisting of seven words might be the most troublesome tweet in corporate America this year.

Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey caused substantial damage with the NBA’s growing relationship with China after he voiced his support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protestors.

China currently accounts for 10% of the NBA’s revenue, a figure that may grow to 20% before long.

Morey’s tweet, which couldn’t be seen in China because the country has banned Twitter…

Yet Chinese authorities seem to fear that people will hear about Morey’s support for the Hong Kong demonstrators anyway.

…is still reverberating across the two countries. The controversy is also likely being watched closely by other US companies that do business with China and have to balance that country’s laws with US ideals.

This has been an issue for a while, along with a number of other China-related issues. It is somewhat ironic that it took professional sports to alert many Americans to how problematic China is.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver initially issued a groveling statement that was widely criticized. He then reversed course, expressing support for freedom of speech on the part of those associated with the league:

In an attempt at damage control, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued another statement Tuesday saying that he won’t censor players or team owners over China or other issues, arguing that the league is motivated by much more than money, and freedom of expression must be protected.

“The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say,” Silver said in the statement. “We simply could not operate that way.”

But the Chinese did not find Silver’s appeal to free speech persuasive:

In response, CCTV said it has “decided to immediately halt” broadcasts of the basketball league’s preseason matches in China after it expressed its “strong dissatisfaction” over Silver’s statement on Morey’s tweet. The broadcaster is also reviewing its broader relationship with the NBA.

“We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to Silver’s stated support of Morey’s right to free speech. We believe any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability do not belong to the category of free speech,” the network said.

Got that? There is no free speech in China where the government thinks “social stability” is at issue. That being the case, the Chinese institutional response has been monolithic. CNN sums it up this way:

All 11 of the NBA’s official Chinese partners have suspended ties with the league since Monday, according to a review by CNN Business of company statements and social media posts.

Whether games scheduled to be played in China will now take place is unclear.

American companies have hailed China, mostly uncritically, as a vast new market for their products and services. There is nothing wrong with that, in principle. But China is a lawless, tyrannical place. This is demonstrated by its disregard of its agreement with the U.K. for the governance of Hong Kong, its contempt for free speech, and its interning vast numbers of Muslims in concentration camps. It is also demonstrated by its constant theft of American intellectual property, its frequent disregard of trade agreements, and its efforts to expand its international influence by bullying American allies.

If the NBA flap causes more Americans to understand why the Trump administration believes China’s misdeeds must be confronted, even at a (temporary, we hope) ecoonomic cost, it will not be a bad thing.

Meanwhile, Michael Ramirez comments graphically. Click to enlarge:

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