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EDITORIAL: NBA, China show truth of social justice in industry

League's actions show disingenuous nature of corporate politics

While many think of the NFL as the American sports league most thoroughly intertwined with politics, the NBA has also established itself as a politically-charged entity.

Adam Silver, the current commissioner of the NBA, quickly began the league's trek toward politics — though perhaps unintentionally. Former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was caught making severely racist comments, causing Silver to permanently ban him from the league.

“I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr. Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken such a leadership role in matters of race relations and caused current and former players, coaches, fans and partners of the NBA to question their very association with the league,” Silver said in a now-famous press conference.

There was rightfully little controversy over Silver’s decision to ban Sterling from the league, and his response was widely well-received, beginning the NBA’s path toward politics.

Another opportunity to display the league’s political depth came in 2017, when the state of North Carolina was both playing host to the NBA All-Star Game and working on passing a bill that would limit protections in relation to transgender individuals and bathroom choice.

Silver once more chose the progressive option, pulling the all-star game from the state in retaliation. 

“We have been guided in these discussions by the long-standing core values of our league. These include not only diversity, inclusion, fairness and respect for others but also the willingness to listen and consider opposing points of view,” the league stated.

Numerous other incidents have followed, ranging from the Los Angeles Lakers’ LeBron James calling President Donald J. Trump a “bum” to the Boston Celtics and Sacramento Kings protesting police brutality. The NBA has made it clear that it would like to project an image of progressive values and civil advocacy.

Across the Pacific Ocean, protests against the authoritarian nature of the Chinese government in Hong Kong erupted in June, continuing to this day and garnering intensive media coverage. 

The NBA has an incredible amount of money invested into China, and more specifically the Houston Rockets. It has remained one of the most popular American teams in the country. This is no surprise, as the current President of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA), Yao Ming, is a former NBA star of the Rockets.

Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support for the Hong Kong protests last Friday. The NBA, with their cutting-edge progressiveness displayed on previous occasions, might be expected to support or at the very least turn a blind eye to Morey’s tweet.

That was not the case. Joe Tsai, owner of the Brooklyn Nets, quickly responded with a long Facebook post that looks like it could have been written by the Chinese government itself. The NBA called Morey’s comments “regrettable” and said they were “disappointed” in Morey’s views.

All of this led to Morey apologizing via Twitter, with a tweet that, much like Tsai’s, looks as if it was written with a metaphorical gun against his temple. 

“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives,” Morey tweeted.

It is interesting that the league chose to reject their “woke” image and support China, but at the same time, it is not surprising at all. Banning Sterling? No real financial impact with that move. Moving the All-Star Game? A hassle, but ultimately a profitable move. 

Aggravating China, the world's second-largest economy? Not nearly as profitable, evidently. 

This incident further goes to show the commanding influence of the mighty dollar. The Hong Kong protest is one of the only political issues with near-homogeneity around the Western world, with many supporting the protests. 

A rebuke of China by the NBA would have fallen in line with their previous record, but rather, Silver said, “It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.”

Clearly, it is not their role when they have money to lose. The NBA dropped the political act as quickly as it adopted it.

The NBA’s disjunction of words and actions is, of course, common among large entities with money to gain or lose.

Rutgers is not immune to this either, shown by its statements supporting action for sexual assault victims, and then retaining professors accused of indecency. The University has also championed programs for the poor, while simultaneously hiking tuition and forcing professors to nearly strike to get their fair share.

This goes to show how little large corporations care about anything other than their bottom lines. 

This is not exactly breaking news, but with the advent of “woke” companies, it is important for consumers not to be duped by a few words of mainstream progressiveness and realize that these “woke” companies are only truly woken by the prospect of cash.


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority   of the 151st editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do   not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or   its staff. 

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