What is it with totalitarian regimes and sports?
On Oct. 4, Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for the democracy protesters in Hong Kong. His message was beautifully unambiguous: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
Predictably, the Chinese regime immediately wished to silence Morey and demanded that he be fired. Chinese companies suspended business partnerships with the NBA and state-run television cancelled broadcasts of the games. Evidently, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) doesn’t like it when free people speak up for the freedoms of other people. In fact, they hate it.
The Best Players Money Can Buy
Sadly, Rockets teammates James Harden and Russell Westbrook couldn’t find it within themselves to support either Morey or the people of Hong Kong. Instead, they issued a joint statement to the Chinese government: “We apologize … You know, we love China. We love playing there. They show us the most important love.”
One has to wonder just what could these two players possibly mean by “most important love?”
Even the NBA’s top player, LeBron James, who earns in excess of $100 million per year and has a net worth of almost a half-billion dollars, threw the people of Hong Kong under the bus. James went on to explain that “people (meaning the Laker players?) could have been hurt physically or financially hurt” from Morey’s tweet. He criticized Morey as not being “educated on the situation at hand.”
The situation, for the edification of Mr. James, is rather simple. Hongkongers don’t want to be subjugated by the most brutal and oppressive regime on the face of the earth. Therefore, they are fighting against it.
On the flip side, who would defend such a regime, especially one that would physically intimidate or even hurt a visiting athlete? What kind of person would do that? One, evidently, who thinks with his wallet. Or, perhaps, not at all.
To his great credit, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stated that, “The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.”
CCP is a Business Master, NOT a Partner
The fact is that the NBA does stand to lose a lot of money if they lose the China market. But, as Silver pointed out in so many words, the NBA is not the North American division of China’s thought police. Not yet, anyway.
Another fact is that China has no intention of becoming a business partner with the NBA. If four decades of forced technology transfers through compelled joint venture schemes tell us anything about the CCP, it’s that they have no use for business partners. The CCP is not in the business of partnership.
More accurately, the CCP is in the business of control. Absolute control. And it will use every engagement with American companies, culture, entertainment and education to incrementally gain control and use it for their own purposes. Their purpose is to dominate the world in every aspect that matters. To do so, they must first eliminate the power and influence of the United States.
There’s a reason why the Hongkongers wave American flags and appeal to the United States for help. What other nation in the world is strong enough to defend freedom?
Letting the World Down to Get Even Richer
That’s why it’s so disappointing to see how some of the biggest names in basketball know or care so little about what freedom is, or what it takes to gain and hold onto it. They’re letting the world down to put more money in their pockets. Perhaps a stroll in downtown Hong Kong on a Saturday night would help them better understand.
Ironically, the last time so much was riding on basketball was when the United States played the Russians in the 1972 Olympic finals. At that time, the Soviet Union was the global challenger to the United States and China was still a backward, agrarian bicycle kingdom enduring grinding poverty and deprivation at the hands of the CCP. The Russians eventually “beat” the U.S. team after the third ending of the game.
But really, this isn’t about basketball, selling billions of dollars of team merchandise or even about the NBA. It’s about the struggle between two political systems and two countries. China is using its huge market as a lure to convince extremely well-paid players and the NBA itself that their interests lie in kneeling before China rather than standing up for the United States. But it’s even more than that. It’s nothing less than a battle for civilizational survival.
Testing America’s Resolve
China is betting that the NBA and its players are all about money. They’re testing America’s—and Americans’—resolve to stand up for their principles. The CCP’s strategy appears to be to reposition the NBA’s financial center of gravity to China. To that effect, the message that the Chinese are sending to the NBA and the basketball players is simple: you can get much richer if you play your game on our courts; just shut your mouth and do what we say.
However, rather than give in to China’s bully/bribe tactics, perhaps the players, coaches, owners and NBA officials should choose to make a bit less money in exchange for something much more valuable: their integrity in standing for, and yes, defending the greatest of human values.
Shove Back at the CCP
What’s more, it seems that the NBA and its players don’t realize the true power they possess. They don’t have to give in to China to do well financially. Why not push back against the CCP? Better yet, shove back—and shove hard.
Let the CCP deal with the social consequences of cutting out the NBA from China’s basketball-hungry youth. Isolate China as the moral pariah that it is. Punish the CCP for being so cruel and inhumane to so many people. Let the CCP bear the blame for it all. Let the Party sweat the potential unrest of trying to put a good face on an ugly outcome.
Let Lebron James be educated on the situation at hand.
James Gorrie is a writer and speaker based in Southern California. He is the author of “The China Crisis.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.