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NBA Kowtows to China Over Houston Rockets GM’s Tweet About Hong Kong

Daniel Victor, writing for The New York Times:

The episode began Friday night, when Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, posted an image on Twitter that included a slogan commonly chanted during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” He quickly deleted the tweet, but the damage was done.

Chinese fans, who see the Hong Kong protesters portrayed as violent rioters in the state-run news media and largely regard them as such, were furious. Sponsors paused their deals with the Rockets, and the country’s main broadcaster said it would remove the team’s games from its schedule.

The league issued an apology for Mr. Morey’s comments Sunday night. That inflamed fans back home, where the protesters are generally seen as pro-democracy fighters battling a repressive government. Democratic and Republican politicians found agreement in calling the league gutless, accusing it of prioritizing money over human rights.

Striking, but unsurprising, that high-profile Republicans are (correctly) willing to speak out in opposition to the NBA’s kowtowing to China, but just shrug their shoulders at the president of the United States’s public request for the Chinese to open a bogus investigation into his political opponent.

Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai tries to justify the NBA’s kowtowing in this Facebook post:

The NBA is a fan-first league. When hundreds of millions of fans are furious over an issue, the league, and anyone associated with the NBA, will have to pay attention. As a Governor of one of the 30 NBA teams, and a Chinese having spent a good part of my professional life in China, I need to speak up.

What is the problem with people freely expressing their opinion? This freedom is an inherent American value and the NBA has been very progressive in allowing players and other constituents a platform to speak out on issues.

The problem is, there are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities.

That the Chinese consider support for freedom in Hong Kong a “third-rail issue” should not deter Americans from speaking out on Hongkongers’ behalf. And it is deeply disingenuous of Tsai to portray the protests in Hong Kong as a “separatist movement” — that’s the Chinese state media line.

Monday, 7 October 2019