The US declared in 2021 that the Chinese Communist Party is committing genocide against Uyghur Muslims, and still, the NBA can’t wait to get back into business with China.
Recently, the NBA has returned to the airwaves of Chinese state-run television after a nearly three-ban. Remember, China punished the NBA with a blackout after then-Rockets general manager Daryl Morey offered support for Hong Kong protesters.
But don’t expect NBA owners to hold a grudge. An ESPN report on Thursday detailed how crucial China is for NBA business.
“NBA owners are exposed in two ways: First, NBA China has grown so large that it contributes significantly to the value of each team. And, second, though Tsai has by far the biggest exposure, many NBA owners also have substantial financial interests in China through their other businesses.”
According to the report, 40 principal owners in the NBA have around a combined $10 billion tied up in Chinese investments.
“In addition to the money their teams derive from the NBA’s $5 billion business in China, many have significant personal stakes there through their other businesses, ESPN writes.
Most notably, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, whom the report mentions by name, has deep ownership interests in Chinese companies. ESPN labeled Tsai the “face of NBA’s uneasy China relationship.”
ESPN also signals out Heat owner Micky Arison, whose primary business Carnival Corp partnered with China State Shipbuilding Corp. to create a China-based cruise line.
All in, estimates say the ban from Chinese had cost the NBA owners hundreds of millions of dollars. Standing up for human rights is bad for business.
This story is that simple: NBA owners have calculated that the relationship is China is worth kowtowing to an authoritarian regime over.
Finally, credit to ESPN for holding the NBA, a league partner, accountable. This is the second time in the past three months that ESPN has practiced journalism by digging into the NBA’s partnership with China.
The NBA declined to make commissioner Adam Silver or deputy commissioner Mark Tatum available to ESPN for comment.
But, hey, the NBA is back on in China.