You know in that 1979 movie, The China Syndrome, how it was feared that a nuclear meltdown here could burn through layers of the earth’s core and reach China? They were only 40 years ahead of their time…and it was not a nuclear meltdown HERE, but a TWEET that burned through the earth to China and caused a nuclear meltdown THERE. From the NY Post: A pair of fans holding “Free Hong Kong” signs were booted from a Philadelphia 76ers game against Chinese squad Guangzhou Loong Lions Tuesday night, according to new reports. Sam Wachs and his wife had attended the preseason game at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia when their neon green signs were confiscated by security, NBC Philadelphia reported. The couple was then escorted out after yelling “Free Hong Kong” during the second quarter.
“We were saying, ‘Free Hong Kong,’” Wachs told NBC. “What’s wrong with that?” What’s wrong with it is that the Wachs ran afoul of the NBA’s policy of licking the boots of the Chinese Communists, who were angered when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey sent out a tweet supporting the Hong Kong protesters. He was taken to task by the Rocket’s owner for trying to make the team a “political organization.” Morey subsequently deleted the tweet–while keeping a tweet critical of Donald Trump in his feed. (Keep in mind, Hong Kong protesters appealed to Prez Trump to defend their freedom). The Rockets’ groveling to the Communists didn’t help. The Chinese Basketball Association suspended their relationship with the Rockets and the Chinese press office issued a stern warning about meddling in Chinese affairs. It didn’t end there. Apparently, because Morey wasn’t fired (and presumably, beheaded), the Chinese government brought the hammer down on the entire NBA.
Chinese state-run television network CCTV said it was suspending the current broadcast arrangements for the NBA’s preseason games in China. Tencent, which owns the digital streaming rights for NBA in China, said it would also “temporarily suspend” the preseason broadcast arrangements. And just to drive the point home that if America wants to play ball in China, they’re going to have to ditch the First Amendment, the state-run TV network issued an unyielding statement about censorship:“We are strongly dissatisfied and we oppose Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right of free expression. We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said in its statement in Chinese, which was translated by CNBC.
The state-run TV channel also said it will “immediately investigate all co-operation and exchanges involving the NBA.” The official Chinese backlash over a seven-word tweet is because of the gravity of the crisis in Hong Kong, said Andrew Zimbalist, professor of economics at Smith College. “This is an existential challenge to China,” he said. “It’s an authoritarian country that doesn’t accept being challenged. China doesn’t know quite what to do about it yet. At some level, China has an object in the NBA that’s easier to control than the protesters in Hong Kong.” The NBA responded to Morey’s tweet with apologetic statements, which generated a wave of domestic criticism in the United States that the league was valuing profits over human rights. In recent years, the NBA has positioned itself as a more progressive league in terms of social justice causes espoused by players, in contrast to the NFL and other sports leagues struggling with player protests. Is this kind of hypocritical? I’m sure the mega-millionaire players and the billionaire owners in the NBA could justify standing up for their interests while putting them before the freedom of overseas folks. “Social justice” does seem to recognize borders, even if immigrants don’t.
China is a huge market and it would be irresponsible for a publicly-traded company to ignore the economic opportunities inherent in bringing their product to the attention of a billion people. But if a business owes it’s very existence to the economic freedom we have here, shouldn’t that entity put the priority on our values, like supporting the guaranteed American right to make public comment on the issues of the day. Foreign countries that don’t understand this or reject it should be told….what? It depends on how the $$$$ cookie crumbles.
In case any reader wants to take the line, “Uncle Curmudgeon, you’re just a racist for coming down on the NBA, because most of their players and all the big stars are black.“: Oh yeah? It isn’t just me. The league operates a training center in Xinjiang province—the same place where China is interning millions of Uighur Muslims. Even Slate (one of the most liberal “woke” organs in the world) wrote about it last year: Operating in such a place seems antithetical to the public stance of a league that has recently gone out of its way to tout its progressive, social-justice bona fides. After the Trump travel ban targeting seven Muslim-majority nations, prominent NBA figures took the side of the critics. League commissioner Adam Silver took the unusual step of criticizing the ban, saying “it goes against the fundamental values and the fundamental ingredients of what makes for a great NBA.” Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy compared the ban to Hitler registering the Jews.
NBA stars like LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony have condemned police violence and racism in the United States, while players and executives have protested the Trump administration’s separation of immigrant children from their parents. According to his LinkedIn page, the NBA executive George Land oversees the Xinjiang training center. On Twitter, Land’s most recent activity is a retweet of the MSNBC host Chris Hayes condemning the U.S. separation of thousands of mothers from their children. But what about Xinjiang? Thousands of Uighur children are reportedly languishing in orphanages, awaiting their parents’ release from the concentration camps. The NBA didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment for this story. Nor did Land. Nor did China’s foreign ministry.
This isn’t over. The next post probes deeper.