NBA commissioner Adam Silver is preparing to restart his league's season in an Orlando bubble environment. Given the current state of the country there are all sorts of challenges that come with that decision from a health and political perspective.
Among those political challenges is the NBA's relationship with China. You'll recall that many of the league's players and owners shouted down Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey -- who has effectively entered NBA witness protection since his October Tweet expressing solidarity with Hong Kong democracy protesters. Normally outspoken NBA players and coaches -- the same players and coaches who comment on every Tweet sent by Donald Trump -- suddenly went silent when confronted with China's human rights abuses and stifling of democracy protests.
Golden State Warrior coach Steve Kerr called the question of whether Hong Kong should have democracy a complex situation. Yes, you read that right, Kerr refused to endorse democracy in other countries and said the question was complex. LeBron James said Daryl Morey "wasn't educated" for supporting democracy and also said American freedom of speech "had a lot of negatives that comes with that too."
Since that flare up in October the NBA has mostly stayed silent on China.
But yesterday Silver addressed the NBA's relationship with China and stated that the NBA and China had "mutual respect" for each other's values.
Talk about a record scratch moment.
If ever there was a time for a follow up question, this was it. What "mutual respect" does the NBA have for Chinese values? Does the NBA respect the Chinese internment camps for Muslims? Does the NBA respect the silencing of protesters in Hong Kong? Does the NBA respect the fact that China lied about the coronavirus, thereby allowing the infection of tens of millions of people around the world? Does the NBA respect China's continued attempts to set up bot accounts and foment artificial dissent in the United States through social media? Does the NBA respect China's continued attempts to steal American technology and pirate it globally? Does the NBA respect the lack of free speech and basic human rights that exist in China?
I mean the list of China's transgressions goes on and on. This is why Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee wrote a letter to the NBA requesting that commisioner Adam Silver and the league answer questions about the NBA's relationship with China. Senator Blackburn's letter stated as follows:
"While the NBA has worked hard to raise awareness of social issues at home, there is concern that the league has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses committed abroad — even bowing down to pressure last year,” Senator Blackburn wrote. “The actions of the NBA and some players have created an appearance that your league prioritizes profit over principle.”
If the NBA players, coaches and commissioner want to argue the league should be making political statements in this country, which they clearly are with names on the back of jerseys changed to player causes and "Black Lives Matter" spelled out on the court itself, how in the world can the league express respect for communist Chinese values while tearing down American values?
Unfortunately Silver wasn't pressed on which values he respects in China. (Aside from their money, I doubt he can even name a single one). But Silver's comments came on a day when China stripped all protest rights from Hong Kong citizens and arrested the first protester for violating the new laws, potentially putting him in prison for years. This is exactly why Hong Kong residents were protesting in the first place, to try to keep this from happening. Surely Silver can't be this tone deaf, can he? To praise China on the day they destroy democracy and freedom in Hong Kong? The very thing Daryl Morey was Tweeting about in the first place.
Let me be crystal clear here: China's values deserve no respect from any American citizen or company, period.
China's values are antithetical to everything our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution hold dear. NBA players, coaches and owners want to be on the "right side of history," well, guess what, the right side of history favors basic human rights, it embraces first amendment rights, it requires a free justice system rooted in laws, it repudiates everything the Chinese communistic government propagates and endorses on a daily basis.
The NBA is without a shadow of a doubt on the wrong side of history when it says it respects Chinese values. Indeed, Adam Silver, by saying he has respect for Chinese values, is insulting every American value on the week of July 4th. At best it's pathetic pandering, at worst it's intentionally spreading Chinese propaganda around the world in exchange for money.
If the NBA truly cared about human rights in this country and around the world, Adam Silver's statement would be straightforward and clear: "We have no respect for China's record of human rights and their system of communistic government, which regularly enslaves its people and imprisons them for protesting on behalf of basic human rights. As a result we are pulling all NBA games and products from the country until such time as they demonstrate a respect for basic American values of human rights, democracy and freedom of speech."
That would be taking a bold and courageous stand. That would be putting principle above profit. That's what Muhammad Ali would have done.
As is, the NBA continues to be China's servant, bowing down to their Communist masters.
It's pathetic and disgraceful.
Adam Silver should be ashamed of his continuing repudiation of American democratic values and endorsement of Chinese communistic propaganda, but thanks to a mostly cheerleading NBA sports media the criticism will be muted.
Which is a terrible shame.
Because when it comes to China the NBA isn't just going to shut up and dribble, they're going to shut up and dribble and espouse respect for Chinese values, even if those same values, when exported around the world, would be the death of freedom and democracy for all the citizens of the globe.
Ultimately the NBA holds these truths to be self evident on the week of July 4th, a time when we celebrate American values across the width and breadth of this great country, if you pay the NBA enough, they won't just shut up and dribble, they'll spread your lies to every corner of the globe.