Mr. Morey is the general manager of the NBA Houston Rockets, and he tweeted support for the freedom-loving people of Hong Kong, with an image that read: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” China’s official basketball association, headed by Hall of Famer and Houston Rockets great Yao Ming, said it will suspend cooperation with the Rockets after that tweet. The Chinese Basketball Association said Sunday on its Twitter-like Weibo account that Morey had made “improper remarks regarding Hong Kong” to which it expressed its “strong opposition.”
Of the four major United States commercial sports leagues—NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB—it seems to me that the NBA markets being woke more front and center than the others. Part of that marketing is the international angle: how popular their stars are overseas, how many foreign players there are in the league, how international play is catching up to the United States. Another angle, less trumpeted but more visible, is the fact that the overwhelming majority of NBA players, especially the stars of the league, are black, and NBA stars have a symbiotic relationship with the NBA when it comes to merchandising.
I am not complaining, it makes no difference to me. The international angle is fine too. Baseball is played in lots of countries, mostly south of the United States and Japan, lots of international stars come into MLB, including my favorites of all time, Albert Pujols and Ichiro. I don’t follow hockey, but I know it’s more popular in the northern countries than it is here, and some of the biggest stars in the NHL were/are Canadians (Gretzky, Howe, Hull, Crosby) and Eastern Europeans or Russians (Ovetchkin, Jagr, Selanne). The NFL has the fewest international stars, and I think they are all kickers. My point is, the NBA really needs it’s international popularity, especially in China, more than the other commercial leagues.
It’s always a problem in this world when an American enterprise needs or covets the Chinese market. The government of China is a huge challenge to “wokeness”. Actually, it’s more than a problem. Doing significant business in China is Ambien on steroids to being “woke”! Did you ever see someone’s behavior 20 minutes after popping a double dose of Ambien (Zolpedim)? Known side effects include decreased awareness, hallucinations, changes in behavior, memory problems, sleepwalking, sleep eating (and cooking), and even sleep driving. In fact, Ambien has become rather notorious for its weird and wacky side effects. The sleeping pill’s mix of “hypnosis, amnesia, and hallucinations” has led the internet to dub it the “Ambien Walrus.” On the healthline.com website, there are stories from people who, while in waking sleep, did the following: “I drove to the store and bought whipped cream.” “I bought a $2,000 guitar amp online.” I raided my neighbor’s freezer for ice cream, and I don’t even like ice cream.” Obviously, before taking Ambien, lock up your wallet and car keys. Okay, enough fun, back to China.
I am watching ESPN Sportscenter right now, as the NBA commissioner Adam Silver is saying “There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” Silver said. “There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have. I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear … that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.” That didn’t save Morey from “apologizing” rather succinctly for the tweet, “I did not mean to cause offense!” Then James Harden and Russell Westbrook, the Rockets biggest stars were trotted out, “We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there,” Harden said. “For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love.” Don’t mention the fact that consumers in China buy far more merchandise than consumers in Hong Kong ever will.
Merchandise accounts for over $1 billion annually for the NBA’s. I don’t know how much of that is from China. NBA has deep ties in China, where basketball has functionally been the national sport for a century. For example, the league in July signed a reported five-year, $1.5 billion extension of its digital broadcast rights deal with Chinese tech behemoth Tencent. This post is only tangentially related to the NBA. It started out to be, yesterday, about the hypocrisy of the NBA, but more stuff coming out today makes me realize that the real story is our most formidable enemy.
Even hardcore Muslims are not immune to the China economic syndrome. Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan seeks to project himself as a global defender of Islam, but he won’t utter a peep about one of the most egregious persecutions of Muslims: China’s repression of Xinjiang’s Uighurs and its project to Sinicize Islam. Instead of writing about the fallout from Mr. Morey’s tweet, I was going to present the Twitter thread, which included a gif of the man confronting a tank in Tiananmen Square, but the tweet was deleted.