The NBA has come under fire the past few years for being in bed with China, but perhaps the league and the communist nation aren’t quite as cozy as you think.
After all, according to commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA has lost hundreds of millions of dollars due to what he described as a strained relationship with China.
Silver added that accepts the losses as the price of free speech. Namely, from NBA players such as Enes Freedom and former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, now of the Philadelphia 76ers.
When Morey supported Hong Kong’s fight for freedom in a tweet several years back, the Chinese government refused to broadcast NBA games on the state-run network.
This past season, all games involving the Celtics were cancelled after Freedom railed against the NBA’s relationship with China, citing China’s widespread human rights injustices.
“Every Fortune 500 company is doing business in China,” Silver told reporters ahead of Game 1 of the Finals between the Celtics and Golden State Warriors. “We have to look to the U.S. government for direction.”
This is an interesting take, as Silver hasn’t really discussed the possibility of the government intervening in previous conversations on the topic. Mostly, Silver and the individual teams have been hush-hush on the injustices abroad, while always speaking loudly on them at home.
That would be fine if the league didn’t rely so heavily on China. It could be argued that no sports league in history relies as much on money from China as the NBA.
So the NBA — while always willing to take stands against companies and cities in the US for perceived injustices — generally has stayed quiet about China. And the mainstream media dares not ask despite the obvious hypocrisy.
Still, Silver deserves credit for his most-recent comments, at least admitting that the league loses money when it doesn’t cater to the Chinese government’s every whim. Now it should take the next step and pull preseason games, camps and broadcast rights from the country.
As late commissioner David Stern once said, “There are 350 million people in the United States. But there are 350 million in China who just love basketball.”
That was long before China became the evil empire it is today. Back then, it was OK to try to build the relationship and take China’s millions.
Now, though, it’s clearly a bad idea. Moving away from China may be tough financially for the NBA, but it’s the right move. Perhaps Silver and the NBA are gaining an understanding of that.