The NBA Values Money Over Freedom—and They Shouldn’t

NBA Commissioer Adam Silver speaks during a press conference prior to the NBA Japan Games 2019 between the Toronto Raptors and Houston Rockets in Saitama on October 8, 2019. - The NBA will not regulate the speech of players, employees and owners, the organisation's commissioner said Tuesday after a tweet from a Houston Rockets executive sparked a backlash in China. KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images
By Nicole Russell


Over the weekend, the National Basketball Association (NBA) dipped its sneakers into a political fight and lost.

The NBA released two statements, one in English and one in Chinese, apologizing to China after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the people of Hong Kong, who have been fighting for freedom from the tyrannical Chinese regime for the last several months.

The image Morey tweeted said, “Fight for Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.”

Soon after, Morey deleted the tweet and apologized, appeasing the Chinese government, with whom the United States does business. A significant portion of the NBA’s market share outside the United States is in China.

The financial impact of the tweet, despite the fact that it was deleted, was swift.

CNN Business reports businesses in China are severing ties with the Houston team, including the Chinese Basketball Association. “China’s consulate general in Houston also urged the team to ‘clarify and immediately correct the mistakes’ in a statement on Sunday,” CNN stated.

The NBA is a private organization, of course, and can do whatever it pleases. Far be it for the government or a bunch of keyboard warriors to demand or regulate that it do anything. But as a large organization based in the United States, which is a beacon of freedom to many in the world, this was a matter of choosing between money or supporting an oppressed people.

China boasts one of the most authoritarian regimes in recent history: Human rights violations, religious persecution, and lack of free speech and a free press plague the country. Millions of citizens of Hong Kong have been actively, vocally—and sometimes violently—advocating to break free from this dictatorship.

Coach Morey should have felt comfortable expressing his personal views, and it’s a view frankly most Americans should share, especially when it’s clear China is an oppressive, communist regime.

Money is a persuasive indicator, and diplomacy with our global friends and foes is important. But the NBA should have stood beside Morey—or at least remained neutral—as he expressed support for what is a trying time for Hong Kong in the midst of a crisis.

There’s a time to play politics; there’s a time to promote capitalism. Both can be powerful forces for human good. When thousands of Chinese citizens are holding the American flag up at their protests in Hong Kong as a symbol of freedom, a picture of who they want to become or wish they had been, now is not that time to choose money over freedom.

Nicole Russell is a freelance writer and mother of four. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Politico, The Daily Beast, and The Federalist. Follow her on Twitter @russell_nm.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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