After months of ducking and dodging criticism of the Chinese Communist Party regime in Beijing, the NBA is now trapped by its own hubris.
And it’s beautiful.
An unexpected scandal exploded into the sports world’s consciousness this past week that appears to have finally caused at least one high-profile NBA luminary to begin speaking up.
First, a brief recap: I wrote about the increasingly troubling relationship between this major American sports league and the brutal dictators of China in a column last October, after the general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets franchise, Daryl Morey, suddenly found himself in the middle of an international controversy due to simply posting a tweet displaying an image that said “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.”
Not a single player, coach, or fellow executive seemed to publicly come to Morey’s defense as he was roundly criticized for “politicizing” his job. Only retired players such as Shaquille O’Neal publicly spoke out in support of Morey at the time.
The ongoing Hong Kong democracy protests were then followed in December by the viral outbreak from Wuhan that quickly sent a novel virus to the far corners of the world.
It’s not even debatable at this point that the communist regime in Beijing deliberately chose to lie about this pandemic in the early stages, and yet for months top NBA people couldn’t seem to find their tongues on the rare occasions they were asked about it—even after the league suspended its 2020 season back on March 12 due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus.
And all the while NBA star players, coaches, and executives stammered and stuttered their way through numerous interviews where they displayed artfully nimble mental gymnastics in their transparent quest to avoid saying anything that might shut off the money spigot from China.
Because that’s what this is all about. It’s about the massive amount of money the NBA garners from its access to Chinese markets.
While the NBA is far from the only American corporation doing very lucrative business in China, it certainly has been the most visible and vocal about its enthusiastic partnership with Xi Jinping and his fellow tyrants.
Watching the evil CCP regime enthusiastically leverage its vast economic clout outside its borders via its financial ties to foreign corporations has been infuriating to watch.
We saw the ugly spectacle of U.S. and European industries censoring their own employees, and in some cases, members of the public, such as fans with “Free Hong Kong” signs tossed out of NBA arenas.
This was certainly not what we were told to expect following then-President Richard M. Nixon’s historic visit to China in 1972, that’d we get to watch American corporations engage in abject cowardice in bowing the knee to a dictatorship.
Enter Black Lives Matter
What made the NBA’s wall of silence on China even worse was the leagues’ instant adoption of “Black Lives Matter” following the nationwide protests and riots that followed George Floyd’s death in May. While the NBA was loudly decrying racism and injustice at home in the United States, as a corporation it continued its practice of studiously ignoring human rights abuses in China.
Only now, following almost two full months of the NBA’s insufferable Black Lives Matter sycophancy, a shocking ESPN report directly tied the basketball sports league to human rights abuses inside China itself.
In its search for the next Yao Ming, the former top star player from China, the NBA launched an initiative in partnership with the CCP that led to the creation of three of the leagues “basketball academies” inside China itself.
One of the academies was opened in Xinjiang province, which turned out to be a huge problem.
ESPN explains in its report:
“The NBA ran into myriad problems by opening one of the academies in Xinjiang, a police state in western China where more than a million Uyghur Muslims are now held in barbed-wire camps. American coaches were frequently harassed and surveilled in Xinjiang, the sources said. One American coach was detained three times without cause; he and others were unable to obtain housing because of their status as foreigners.”
It turns out many of the kids being found by the coaches and brought to the academy for training were in fact Uyghurs themselves, and the U.S. coaches observed the CCP coaches they were partnered with physically abusing these kids.
At least two of the U.S. coaches left their positions over the treatment of the Uyghur kids whom they personally observed. One of the former coaches told ESPN in evident disgust that he “watch[ed] a Chinese coach fire a ball into a young player’s face at point-blank range and then ‘kick him in the gut.’”
“‘Imagine you have a kid who’s 13, 14 years old, and you’ve got a grown coach who is 40 years old hitting your kid,’ the coach said. ‘We’re part of that. The NBA is part of that.’”
The good news is it looks like this recent shock to the NBA’s system is causing some prominent figures within the sports league to suddenly begin to express second thoughts.
Steve Kerr is the head coach of the Golden State Warriors, a team that has dominated the league for the past six years, appearing in the last six straight championship series and winning three of them.
Last October when he was asked about Morey’s controversial tweet and the Hong Kong democracy protests, as well as the recent viral footage of Uyghurs being loaded onto trains bound for slave labor camps, Kerr was positively tongue-tied. He stammered his way through a painful couple of sentences before quickly dodging the subject.
Guy Benson at Townhall.com remembers:
“I’ve been quite harsh in my assessment of Golden State Warriors head coach Steve Kerr, an outspoken lefty whose hypocrisy vis-a-vis social justice and China has been glaring. Late last year, Kerr cravenly dodged questions about Beijing’s myriad abuses, more or less regurgitating the NBA’s official ‘see no evil’ line. He stooped to disgusting moral equivalencies as a means of deflecting the conversation away from the regime’s egregious and systemic abuses, and onto America’s flaws.”
Well, today I must give Kerr some credit. He has publicly reversed himself, admitting to reporter Candace Buckner of The Washington Post during a recent interview that he deeply regrets not voicing support for Daryl Morey back in October.
Now that Kerr has stood up and broken the firewall of silence from the NBA on the China human rights issues, it remains to be seen if any other top figures in the league can find their voice.
Brian Cates is a writer based in South Texas and the author of “Nobody Asked For My Opinion … But Here It Is Anyway!” He can be reached on Twitter @drawandstrike.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.