Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets NBA team, caused quite the stir this weekend when he tweeted in support for Hong Kong people fighting for their freedom. A seemingly ordinary and inoffensive tweet - for us here in America anyways - set off a negative chain reaction in China, culminating in the Chinese broadcast partner of the NBA to cease any and all operations with the Rockets.
The immense soft power of China was on full display, and in quick succession, too. To go from an “offensive” tweet (keep in mind that twitter is officially banned in China) to then mere hours later a total severing of relationship is surprisingly rapid. It certainly gets results: Morey was (let’s face it) forced to offer a follow-up concession for hurting the feelings of China, and the NBA office released a statement acrobatically apologizing to Chinese basketball fans without outright outlawing Morey’s right to free expression.
It’s amazing to watch all of this unfold. For better or worse, China is now the preeminent super power on this planet. The Chinese market is so lucrative for the NBA that it had to reprimand one of their own for supporting democracy! This is the same league that moved its All Star Game from Charlotte in protest of a bathroom bill, and is widely recognized as the most progressive of the major sport leagues.
I guess money still speaks louder than woke-ness, and when billions are at stake, capitalism will always triumph. Personally I’m not surprised the league groveled to China in such a fashion; let it be a reminder that it’s a machine to make money first and foremost, and the NBA support for progressive causes only goes so far as the impact on league profits. Hating on the orange man at the White House is seen as a positive; criticize anything about China is most definitely not.
Basketball players will speak to power on the treatment of migrants at the Mexico border all day long, but anything to say about the situation in Hong Kong? Not a chance. When actual paychecks are at stake, mouths will shut.
It’s interesting to watch.