Freedom’s price is now coming out according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who announced this week that his league lost “hundreds of millions” in an imposed Chinese TV blackout of all NBA games following Daryl Morey’s 2019 tweet, in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. At the time, demonstrators in Hong Kong were protesting China’s ever-tightening grip on free speech rights. In response to the uprising of freedom’s oppression by China, Morey who was the then, general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted-
“Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”-Daryl Morey, General Manager, Houston Rockets
Beijing’s sharp reaction was swift. China immediately canceled all NBA programming on CCTV, which has now lasted for 18 months.
Apparently, now that China has recently rescinded the blackout restrictions in March, by showing NBA games – the price of those two simple sentences has been brought forward. Trumpeting the the league’s willingness to suffer financial loss, while speaking out in favor of free speech, Silver told reporters on Thursday, the 18-month blackout succeeded in costing the league “hundreds of millions of dollars.”
According to Reuters, Silver also told reporters-
“Others since then have spoken out about their views around China and other places in the world, and if the consequences are that we’re taken off the air or we lose money, we accept that,”-Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner
However, in stark contrast to the league’s stance 18-months ago, as the league was scrambling to repair its relations with its Chinese business partners - Silver’s current statements of “pay any cost” for the cause of freedom routine, ring hollow. Many in the league are weighing in on the actual price tag and sounding off. The cost of standing for freedom is not as popular as Silver makes it sound. When is costs,really costs – people chose their words more carefully.
The face of the league, LeBron James, said flatly, that there were “negatives” to having free speech. Sadly, money talks.
While many have spoken out against China’s human rights violations at home, together with their oppression of pro-democracy and speech movements abroad, the NBA continues to be more beholden to China than any other American sports league. In fact, it seems to be more beholden to China than any sport has ever been to a foreign power in the history of sports.
Actually, over the last 18 months, the NBA has done nothing but increase their financial commitments to China. So,are they for or against free speech? They seem to suggest yes, we stand with our commitment to free speech, however we still want to cozy up to the same country financially, who enslaves their citizens, oppresses free speech and seeks to quell any pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.
Less than surprising, this past January, Golden State Warriors Co-Owner Chamath Palihapitiya said that “nobody cares” about China’s enslavement of its Uyghur population. He reportedly stated-
“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay,” adding “You bring it up because you care and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care. I’m just telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.”-Chamath Palihapitiya, Golden State Warriors Co-Owner
Though oppressive communist China presses on with protestors continuing to rally against their enslavement of the Uyghurs, seeking news of their relatives and expressing their concern about the ratification of an extradition treaty between China and Turkey in February of 2021- The NBA remains strangely silent.
Though Palihapitiya would later walk his comments back, there was no significant fallout from the league – again strange silence. Clearly, the NBA’s apparent stand is two sided – especially when money is involved.
More to the point Dallas Mavericks Owner Mark Cuban summed up the current league’s stance on China best. Cuban said that he was-
(I am) “against human rights violations around the world” (indicating that the league had to) “pick its battles.” adding “I personally put a priority on domestic issues,”Mark Cuban, Dallas Mavericks Owner
It seems odd that “domestic issues” would be a point of focus, when the league’s most significant business partner, communist China – is at issue. Strangely, the league didn’t seem to have such a stringent focus on domestic issues, when it allowed teams to make several statements decrying the war in Ukraine. But then, the NBA doesn’t stand to lose much money as a result of supporting the people of Ukraine. There is no fear in supporting something you cannot lose on. The cost for action is limited.
The NBA is keeping a tighter grip on how it is seen by communist China these days and if picking your battles as a league means not offending your largest financial business partner – communist China, that says a lot about what the NBA’s commitment to the price of freedom really is.
Silver’s after the fact bragging about suffering the financial cost for free speech, is worth as about as much as any social justice messaging from his league, absolutely nothing. Those sports minded American’s who think the NBA’s weak stand won’t cost them – need to think again. They are a sad representation of us all.
They, as any other foreign watched U.S. sports league – wind up being representative of who and what America stands for. China has good reason, in this case, to see us as weak. America’s currently ineffective president in Joe Biden, our inner turmoil as a nation running rampant across the media and one of our biggest leagues – vacillates on whether freedoms cost is actually worth millions lost, is what they see of us on the world stage. Why would China see us as anything but weak as a nation? If America doesn’t care to fight for freedom – who will?