Talk about taking the easy lay-up. This starts with a tweet from Houtson Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressing support for democracy in Hong Kong, which in the US would hardly seem notable, let alone objectionable. In China, however, the government turned it into an international incident — and the NBA dribbled all over itself to re-ingratiate themselves to Beijing:
The NBA said it hopes the league can help to unify people and cultural divides while maintaining an openness to a flow of ideas when it weighed in on the controversy Sunday night. Fostering strong relationships with China has been a priority of the league for at least three decades. The NBA has a China office and just announced plans to add a gaming team in Shanghai to the NBA 2K League, and officials in both countries say as many as 500 million Chinese fans watched at least one NBA game last season.
“We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable,” the NBA said in a statement. “While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them.”
China’s official basketball association, headed by Hall of Famer and Rockets great Yao Ming, said it would suspend cooperation with the team, calling Morey’s tweet “improper remarks regarding Hong Kong” to which it expressed its “strong opposition.” Chinese state television and Tencent — a major media partner with ESPN and the NBA in China, with a streaming deal that is worth $1.5 billion total over the next five years — then said they would not be showing Rockets games.
“We have great respect for the history and culture of China,” the NBA said in its statement, “and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
Morey also tried to walk it back with a pair of later tweets:
2/ I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) October 7, 2019
Before that, his owner and players threw him under the bus, which as the Los Angeles Times notes seems pretty … awkward:
Speaking at a practice in Tokyo on Monday, Rockets’ star James Harden was contrite as he spoke standing with teammate Russell Westbrook.
”We apologize,” Harden said. “You know, we love China, we love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love. We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as organization.” …
Earlier, Fertitta attempted to distance the team from Morey’s tweet with a Twitter post of his own: “Listen.(at)darylmorey does NOT speak for the (at)HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the (at)NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”
The timing of this is particularly awkward for the NBA, whose players have often been outspoken on social issues in the United States.
Wait — the league is “NOT a political organization”? That might be news to NBA fans, who undoubtedly are waiting with bated breath for players’ next lecture on “social issues.” What’s more important than democracy and self-determination? Either be a political organization or don’t be, but don’t pose as social scolds while selling out to an oppressive regime for the megabucks. Come on, man.
Unsurprisingly, politicians took this opportunity to scold the NBA and its players for selling out to China. Only slightly more surprisingly was the bipartisan consensus against the NBA. Ted Cruz got the ball rolling, so to speak, but it didn’t take long for Beto O’Rourke, Julián Castro, John Cornyn, Ben Sasse, and more to sign up for the Basketball Battle:
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 7, 2019
China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S.
The United States must lead with our values and speak out for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, and not allow American citizens to be bullied by an authoritarian government. https://t.co/87U4jgsAAp
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 7, 2019
The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights. What an embarrassment. https://t.co/bbiwCBTwc1
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) October 7, 2019
It’s clear that the @NBA is more interested in money than human rights. Tonight’s statement from Commissioner Silver is an absolute joke.
— Rick Scott (@SenRickScott) October 7, 2019
Listen….some things are more important than money. Like doing the right thing. @dmorey tweeted about human rights and supporting #HongKongProtests. How ironic that you’re siding with communism to advance your greed. https://t.co/RoyJ3o3bbY
— Rep. Eric Swalwell (@RepSwalwell) October 7, 2019
Sure seems that money’s the most important thing, although this does prompt a question. Why is the NBA more worried about offending China with some random political opinion by one of its employees than it worries about offending US fans over others? Must be the amount of money involved. That’s something for US fans to consider, too. Maybe if the league’s hypocrisy and greed is offensive enough, US fans might start treating them like China does … and do the same with the NFL, MLB, NHL, and so on.
Anyway, congratulations to both the NBA and China, for that matter. You’ve managed to blow an offhand tweet into more reasons for people to get disgusted with your business models, albeit for different reasons. Anyone want to guess how long it will take for the Houston Rockets and the NBA to make it worse by firing Morey in order to make China happy again? Over/under: he’ll join Jay Gruden on the unemployment line by the end of the day.
Update: I missed this last night from our own Allahpundit, but it’s perfect:
New NBA rule: No kneeling during the Chinese national anthem
— Allahpundit (@allahpundit) October 7, 2019