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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Activism for sale: is the NBA as progressive as it appears?

The National Basketball Association is rapidly becoming the foremost popular professional sports league across America, and just as quickly in the rest of the world. As its global expansion steadily continues, and its domestic ratings rise, the demographics of fans the NBA caters to, expands as well. The league itself is one of the leaders in promoting progressivism, both through itself as an institution, and in the cultures the sport it represents are interwoven with. Just as recently as this past weekend however, the NBA has found itself in some pretty hot water, directly involving one of the most lucrative of international markets it proudly finds itself in business with, that being the officially termed, “People’s Republic of China.”

China has been in the headlines of international news since as far back as June over the countries divisive protests taking place primarily in Hong Kong. China, as an openly communist-run regime, has had no shortages over the decades of controversy regarding the nation’s dismissiveness of human rights, yet hypocrisy regarding social outrage has proven itself rather dependently to have a price that China as a nation always finds the means to pay for.

The wave of protests taking place in Hong Kong are directly in response to a bill proposed by the government of the mainland of China that would allow for the extradition of criminal suspects from Hong Kong, once a British colony, to the mainland. Residents of the city fear such a bill’s ability can be abused by the mainland government of China as a means to unfairly police its people. Hong Kong, for all its worth (which is actually a great deal), holds some autonomy as well as more rights than mainland China under the “one country, two systems” deal, by which it agreed upon, in order to reunify and make China a whole nation in the early 1980’s. To sum it up, though, as in no means to diminish the people’s movement of Hong Kong, the protests are anti-government demonstrations, and clearly have become so increasingly hostile that they are being spectated and commented on the world over.

Now, believe it or not, where the NBA becomes involved, is on Twitter. Truly. On just the first Saturday of October, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted out a simple picture, of which was the logo representing those protesting in Hong Kong, along with the slogan: “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.” In simply voicing his support to his roughly 231k Twitter followers, the GM of the team with quite possibly the deepest rooted connection to China, started a fire, one which has brought with it a storm of controversy, condemnation and some pretty uniformed, hypocritical outrage.

The NBA is probably the most progressive league in all of American professional sports … or so it would promote itself to be. As an association that preaches forward thinking, especially since its induction of relatively new commissioner, Adam Silver, in 2014, the NBA both as a whole, as well as its individual constituents (coaches and players alike), have been praised for stances regarding controversies facing society time and time again. In 2017, the NBA took a firm stance when the league removed the rights to the All-Star game from Charlotte, North Carolina over the then (and still now) heated controversy regarding the states House Bill 2 (H.B. 2), and basic refusal to comply to the federal guidelines/mandates that would permit transgender students to use the proper restrooms, as well as offer greater LGBTQ rights. More recently, Commissioner Adam Silver has announced that the league is done using the term “owner” when referring to those who … own the teams in the league. Silver highlighted the racial insensitivity the word alone brings, especially in a league whose black players make up 74% of its entirety, and now owners are easily referred to as “governors of the team” and “alternate governors.” The activism displayed by the league is certainly inspirational, and goes beyond a few changes made by the leagues front office. Since the induction of our controversial (to say the least) 45th President Donald Trump, teams such as the Golden State Warriors have declined the annual visits to the White House following the winning of championships, for many different reasons, but mostly in protest of the President’s rhetoric, presumed beliefs and the disdain for his representation of decency and of the country as a whole. The head coach of that very same team, Steve Kerr, along with a few other prominent coaches in the league, have been rather outspoken over the years regarding social injustices that they feel need be addressed (granted, after often being prodded for comment by the media). It would take no more than a simple Google search to find the slew of comments made by NBA coaches and players centered on bettering the welfare and lives of people across our own country, as well as even touching on international injustices. Though, as this past week has seemed to prove, things are different when it comes to China.

It would probably be safe to assume that when a general manager of one of the the league’s most popular teams comes out in support of the democratic protests being carried out by the people of Hong Kong, he would have the entire league and more behind him in support. This, however, did not happen, and in an unprecedented series of events, Daryl Morey found himself alone in his defense of what he believed was right. Though, it wasn’t that others around the league did not support Morey’s sentiment, but rather, in Morey’s professed support for those protesters of Hong Kong, he inadvertently (actually, rather directly) took a shot at the mainland People’s Republic of China. And this is where he, at least in the business world, messed up drastically.

Almost instantly following his lone tweet, the government of China harshly  responded. Taking direct offense to the discredit aimed toward its mainland Government, China began taking measure to disassociate itself from NBA business. Certain Chinese companies suspended partnerships with the league, Chinese-run media came out firing with criticism of the NBA as a whole, and even an agreement between the nation and league to have two NBA pre-season games broadcast out of Shanghai, China, was cancelled. Facing such backlash, the league first came in response with a statement essentially condemning Morey for his views on the protests in Hong Kong, going so far as to discredit by stating that “while Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them.” Other ‘alternate governors,’ as well as even the coinciding GM of the Houston Rockets, have too since come out to dismiss Morey’s sentiment, in hopes to mend the bruised relationship with the nation of China and its fans that Morey’s tweet apparently so irreparably damaged. But, hypocrisy draws just more of the same, and this was only the start of the league’s most recent international drama.

Since the league’s own response, reporters, sports analysts and the like, have come out with criticism for the NBA over its handling of the controversy. People are upset, and rightfully so, over the league almost blatantly turning its back on one of its own, in order to protect its business interests overseas. Warranted, these were very, very lucrative business interests, but to the fans, the question is at what point are domestic and homebound connections out-valued by television deals and incentive? At what point do proud Americans turn their heads to the injustices across the world, just so long as they feel their pockets lined? When looking for the usual outspokenness of the Steve Kerrs of the league, onlookers were met with nothing but crickets. Silence regarding the controversy. In domestic damage-control move, the league re-issued a second statement, stating that while the NBA has developed a great relationship with China, its political and moral differences are recognized. The second statement expressed how “values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA – and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.” The second statement reads as a little shorthanded, but as does this controversy as a whole, really. Social injustices tend to draw pick-and-choose crowds, and in increasingly divisive times, those which are commented on often conveniently in turn benefit they who call what they see for how they see it. Injustice in the communist People’s Republic of China is unquestionable, but so too are injustices every else. In the week since, tensions have simmered down and both China and the league look to be moving past the who debacle, for business interests presumably. Something of a slow news week, it appears.

— Sent from iPhone 

            — Manufactured in China