NBA boycotts states for trans bathrooms, but censors critics of authoritarian China
October 10, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The National Basketball Association (NBA) very quickly found itself in the middle of a major controversy this week while trying to maintain positive relations with the Communist regime of China, in a series of actions that stand in stark contrast to the organization’s treatment of American states that have opposed the LGBT lobby’s priorities.
As detailed by CNN Business, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey began the controversy last Friday by tweeting a since-deleted message declaring, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” Team owner Tilman Fertitta quickly stated that the tweet did not represent the team, and the following Monday the NBA issued a statement in hopes of staving off Chinese broadcasters’ threats to suspend the airing of Rockets games.
"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," the English statement read. "We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together."
USA Today reported that the NBA’s Chinese-language statement struck a noticeably different tone, opening with a matter-of-fact declaration that Morey’s tweet was “inappropriate” and “regrettable,” and demoting individual expression from one of the “values of the league” to merely something “people can be interested in.”
After strong backlash from lawmakers and commentators across the ideological spectrum, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Tuesday that the organization “will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say.” The NBA’s Chinese partners responded by cutting ties with the organization.
Despite Silver’s pledge, American Principles Project director of government affairs Jon Schweppe tweeted videos Wednesday evening of his and his friends’ “Free Hong Kong” and “Google Uyghurs” signs being confiscated from the stands of a Washington Wizards game:
We are currently standing tall behind the basket with our Free Hong Kong shirts on. We were told if we do another sign we will be removed. Standing tall in our tshirts— Jon Schweppe (@JonSchweppe) October 9, 2019
Our “Google Uyghurs” sign has been confiscated. pic.twitter.com/fX4tF4oOxR— Jon Schweppe (@JonSchweppe) October 9, 2019
Critics ranging from The Federalist to The New York Times have observed that the NBA’s efforts to avoid rankling the Chinese regime’s sensibilities appear to undermine the association’s image as a corporation “woke” to a host of domestic social-justice causes. In 2016, the NBA infamously withdrew its annual All-Star Game from Charlotte, North Carolina in protest of the state’s HB2 bathroom law, which prevented local governments from forcing businesses to let gender-confused individuals use bathrooms meant for the opposite sex.
“The law, as it now stands in North Carolina, is problematic for the league,” Silver said at the time. “The league believes that these groups need to be protected.”
“I see hypocrisy,” Republican Pat McCrory, who was governor of North Carolina during the controversy, told the Charlotte Observer Tuesday about the NBA’s shifting standards. “They wanted to involve themselves with North Carolina commerce and an election, while not setting the same standard for China. I called them out then, and it’s still true now.”
“They were losing some sponsorships (if All-Star Weekend was held in North Carolina then); they told me that flat-out on the phone,” McCrory recalled. “They got heavily involved with our community and elections, while ignoring China. He added that he pointed out as much to Silver in 2016.
“I told the commissioner they’ve got a lot of business in China,” McCrory said. “But they’ve got a lot of sponsors there, and that would cost them hundreds of millions.”