Tuesday, October 08, 2019

Shallow woke-ness

The National Basketball Association has been lauded over the past several years for being the most "progressive" of the big four pro sports leagues (The NBA, along with Major League Baseball, National Football League and National Hockey League).

Some of the high profile stances the league has taken:

  • Forcing L.A. Clippers owner er...uh..."governor" Donald Sterling to sell his franchise upon revelation of shocking racist statements. Sterling was also banned from the league for life. 

  • No longer using the word "owner" to describe the individual who owns and NBA franchise, primarily because such a title conjures up memories of slave masters or something. 

Players and coaches also pride themselves as being "WOKE!!" due to their constant criticism of all things right-of-center, especially President Trump. And we're talking some of the bigger named players like LeBron James as well as championship coaches Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich.

Personally, I have zero issue with the stances the NBA has taken during the tenure of Commissioner Adam Silver, who assumed his post in early 2014. And even though I oppose much of the leftism espoused by many players and coaches, I'm perfectly fine with them speaking their minds.

Unfortunately, the league kowtowing to China in light of Houston Rockets' GM Daryl Morey standing up for the citizens of Hong Kong in their opposition to the tyrannical Chinese government has shown that the NBA's "woke-ness" has limits. The Atlantic writer Jemele Hill, a staunch leftist and former ESPN personality who believes the Trump administration is rife with white supremacy, is spot on in her assessment of the league's willingness to encourage social commentary until it impacts the bottom line.

It’s much harder to stand on principle when that principle interferes with business relationships worth billions of dollars. The NBA recently signed a five-year extension, reportedly valued at $1.5 billion, with the China-based digital giant Tencent Holdings, which now won’t be including the Rockets as part of its coverage. NBA players have found China to be fertile financial ground. Several NBA stars, including James, Kobe Bryant, Steph Curry, and the Rockets guard James Harden regularly visit China to promote their merchandise and pad their pockets. Players, including the recently retired superstar Dwyane Wade, also have signed lucrative shoe deals with Chinese brands. Likely wanting to protect his own business interests in China, Harden did not stand with his GM. He apologized to Chinese citizens following a team practice in Tokyo, where the Rockets are playing preseason games.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver issued a detailed statement before today’s preseason games in Tokyo in an attempt to further clarify that the league is standing behind Morey’s right to free speech. Silver surely realized that the league’s initial characterization of Morey’s tweet as “regrettable” didn’t exactly denote support.

The problem for the NBA is that this isn’t just a free-speech issue. This is a test to see whether the NBA has the stomach to fight for certain values when doing so compromises business.

If the Chinese continue to take a hard-line stance with the NBA, the league must take a more forceful stand against them—maybe to the point where league officials must reassess whether it’s even possible to have a healthy business relationship with China without compromising the ideals that have made their brand unique in professional sports. If the NBA buckles to China, that merely shows that the league will fight for its values only if no real sacrifice is involved.

Yep. But if you think about it, this is classic progressivism. In prog land, many will laud what happens in brutal dictatorships like Venezuela and Cuba as well as clinging to the belief that a Middle Eastern woman donning a burka is empowering. But at the same time they'll contend that America is on the verge of resembling The Handmaid's Tale.

Say, speaking of coach Kerr, he's the proverbial Chatty Cathy on all matters Trump as well as impugning the character of law abiding American citizens who believe in the Second Amendment. But on China? Yeah, he's gonna need a little more time to research that one.

I maintain that NBA players and coaches still have every right to speak out on any issue they desire as well as willfully remain silent on others. But there's no question that their self-anointed moral authority has taken a huge credibility hit this week.


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