Not so long ago, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said, “In this day and age, you really do have to stand for something.” So much for that.
When Daryl Morey, general manager of the Houston Rockets, ventured a single tweet in support of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong, the NBA swiftly bent the knee to censors in Beijing and reprimanded him. Reprimanded him, let’s be clear, for supporting democracy. Said the NBA, Morey’s comments “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”
What is regrettable is the NBA’s downright eagerness to appease the authoritarian thugs in the Chinese Communist Party in order to make a buck. Or maybe a lot of bucks. The league’s relationship with China accounts for at least 10 percent of its annual revenue—hundreds of millions of dollars every year. That tells you exactly everything you need to know about the NBA’s priorities in the controversy over Hong Kong.
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In the days following Morey’s tweet, the league and its players outdid themselves lecturing Morey on his ignorance of the “complicated” issues at play in Hong Kong. Lebron James went so far as to say Morey wasn’t “educated on the situation.”
The truth is, the American people are plenty educated about China. After decades of watching Beijing take our jobs, steal our intellectual property, and build their military on the backs of our middle class, working Americans know what Beijing is about. And every American knows that the right to vote, the right to speak, and the right to worship are basic human liberties.
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The people who won’t face the facts are the corporate executives and rich athletes who make money hand over fist in China. It was bad enough when many of these same people shipped our jobs overseas to Chinese markets and hollowed out entire industries in the name of a quick profit.
Back then they assured us American workers would really benefit in the end and — just wait — China would become a democracy. Well, not exactly. Now these experts want to import Chinese censorship and force Beijing speech codes on Americans.
This is a time for choosing. The NBA and other multinational corporations like Apple, which assembles every iPhone and most of its other products in China, can certainly choose to do business in the Chinese market if they like. But they owe it to their American customers, they owe it to this country, to take a stand.
Beijing will continue to use access to its market and other forms of commercial pressure to coerce American companies and their executives to become mouthpieces for its propaganda campaigns. American companies must not go along. It’s time for the NBA and the rest to show a little American independence and tell Beijing where to step off.
If they’re not willing to do that, they shouldn’t be doing business in China. And they don’t deserve the respect or loyalty of Americans.
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Sometimes the fate of one city defines the challenge of a generation. Fifty years ago, that city was Berlin. Today, it is Hong Kong. Beijing seeks to dominate the Asia-Pacific region, and eventually, the world — to bend global trade, global markets, and yes, global competitors, to its will. Nothing could be more dangerous to the security of the American people or the prosperity of our middle class.
We are in for a long struggle with China to defend our economy and our people. We’ve surrendered too much ground already. Now is the time to take a stand, by standing with Hong Kong.