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Will the NBA show support for Enes Kanter or just stay quiet? That seems to be the question after China pulled Boston Celtics games from its airwaves after Kanter spoke out against the Chinese government.
Now, China will no longer show the Celtics on its major platforms — either for the rest of the season or until they trade or outright cut Kanter.
This is news because the NBA profits off its Chinese audience more than any other American sports league in history. They love the NBA in China. As late former commissioner David Stern once said, “There are 350 million people in America. But there are 350 million people in China who just love basketball.”
In other words, the NBA needs China.
This has brought the league under some scrutiny, given its cozy relationship with a communist nation that is against many of the social justices touted by the NBA, including freedom of speech.
Daryl Morey, formerly the general manager of the Houston Rockets and now with the Philadelphia 76ers, first brought the NBA’s relationship with China into the spotlight when he tweeted “Free Hong Kong” a couple years back. Morey then came under fire from the league and some of its more notable voices, including Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James.
The backlash had little to do with anything beyond the NBA’s business bond with China. It had nothing to do with what is going on in the country, including China’s enslavement of Uighur Muslims.
The Chinese government is also totally against transgender equality, a topic which prompted the NBA to pull its All-Star game out of Charlotte, NC in 2016. But based on evidence, the NBA thinks it’s OK if China feels that way.
So it will be interesting to see whether the league comes out in support of Kanter and his recent comments. It is often big on supporting the narrative of its players, except when the players take a stand against its biggest business partner.
Bottom line: The NBA likely could not survive as it currently does without the money from China. So the NBA is in quite a pickle.
Could this turn into another mess for the league as it celebrates its 75th anniversary season? Will those who cover the NBA push those in charge on its relationship with China and the message delivered by Kanter? Or will it all be quickly and quietly hushed, as if it never happened and no issues exist?
Based on how much money the NBA makes off of its communist business partner, we likely already know the answers.