EDITORIAL: NBA protests and Chinese cash

  • The NBA players have protested social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
  • The NBA, as an organization, has supported the protests by its players.
  • When it comes to its business partners in China's Communist Party, the NBA has been silent.

It was a scene that played out repeatedly over this past weekend.

NBA players, taking part in their first games since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the league in mid-March, kneeled, practically in unison, during the national anthem. Many wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts during contests at the Disney World “bubble.”

York Suburban High grad, NBA reporter Mark Medina details life in Disney World 'bubble'

It was a form of protest that was not only permitted by league officials but actively encouraged. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gave the protests his blessing and referred to them as “unified” demonstrations.

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The NBA's players, who are overwhelmingly Black, were using their platform to raise awareness of social justice and racial discrimination issues. More specifically, they were targeting police brutality against people of color.

Their protests obviously did not sit well with many, who saw their acts as unpatriotic challenges to the flag, to the military and to the police.

That would be an over-simplistic and incorrect interpretation. The players were simply employing their constitutional rights to bring a much-needed focus to issues that have been ignored for far too long.

FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2019, file photo, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before an NBA preseason basketball game between the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors in Saitama, near Tokyo. It’s been over three months since the commissioners of major sports cancelled or postponed events because of the coronavirus. Enough time for us to grade them on how they’ve handled the virus so far. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

We applaud their determination, despite the many howls of criticism that they knew would follow. The decision was probably made easier by the fact that the NBA’s marketing arm has likely determined that those yelling the loudest about the NBA’s demonstrations are probably not big NBA fans.

In other words, there wasn’t a big cost to be paid.

What about China? Still, while the players and the league stood in unison against social injustices in the United States, we had to wonder why the NBA as a whole has remained so quiet on social justice issues in another country — namely China.

It’s no secret that the ruling Communist Party in China routinely:

  • Stomps on the human rights of its citizens.
  • Steals technology from American companies.
  • Expels and spies on journalists from around the world.
  • Suppresses Democratic freedoms in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Tibet.

And we haven’t even mentioned China’s role in hiding information about the emergence of the coronavirus.

That is just the Reader’s Digest version of the offenses by the Chinese Communist Party.

Hardly a peep from the NBA: Still, hardly a peep has been heard about China from any corner of the NBA.

There’s a simple reason for that — money. The NBA and China are business partners who have deep financial ties that date back decades. The game has become wildly popular in the country with 1.4 billion potential fans. There are millions — probably billions — of dollars at stake.

So, when it comes to China, the NBA treads very softly.

The Hong Kong stir: In fact, last fall, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey created a stir by tweeting a message encouraging his followers to “stand with Hong Kong.”

That seemed like a relatively benign statement. After all, there are few Americans who don't sympathize with the plight of Hong Kong's beleaguered citizens.

Nevertheless, Morey's comment obviously did not sit well with the higher-ups in the NBA. The tweet was quickly deleted. It apparently caused a monthslong divide between the league and China. Chinese TV stopped all broadcasts of NBA games, and Silver said earlier this year that the issue has cost the league a “substantial” amount. The league called the tweet “regrettable.”

Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James, third from left, and Anthony Davis, second from right, wear Black Lives Matter shirts as they kneel with teammates during the national anthem prior to an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Clippers, Thursday, July 30, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

Silence on China: So, it has become apparent that the NBA does care about social justice, but the league’s concerns apparently end at the water’s edge and when the bottom line is threatened.

The NBA has effectively used its platform to shine a light on serious problems here in the United States.

We say bravo.

When it comes to China, however, the league’s silence has been deafening — and disappointing.