In The Scope: NBA Learns Price of Political Speech Has Low Exchange Rate In China

By Joshua M Hicks (@jhicks042)

This week has seen the NBA fall under much scrutiny both home and abroad after Rockets general manager Daryl Morey took to Twitter to let off his thoughts on the recent Hong Kong protests against the Chinese government, doing so during the less-than-ideal time where the league was putting on multiple exhibition games in China.

In the wake of Morey’s loud allegiance with the insurgency in China, the NBA’s largest market base outside of the United States has gone cold on anything regarding the NBA for the time being, coming close to shutting down the anticipated games in the nation and doing everything they could to squash promotion of the events, which feature two of the Association’s current high profile teams in the Lakers and Nets, whose new owner is of Chinese descent.

The NBA has been very outspoken on the issue and stated their support for Morey exercising his First Amendment Right regarding freedom of speech. However, freedom of speech comes with a price and it is a concept that should be monitored when it comes to American citizens openly criticizing foreign countries. 

Growing up I had a different upbringing than others, and people would always question why my parents would make the decisions/rules that they made. My parents were always respectful to other folks opinions, but in regards to anything related to family they’d just as soon say “don’t tell me how to raise my kids,” than accept any outside criticism of their tactics.

Such a concept should be applied when critics outside of the political field are discussing issues outside of the U.S., this Morey mess provides a great example of that. 

For China, they are more of a Communist operation, which isn’t as simple of a political concept. Communism is defined as a totalitarian system of government in which a single authoritarian party controls state-owned means of production.

Although Hong Kong belongs to China, they have their own political system that has some similarities to he United States regarding different freedoms and rights that are applied to its citizens. Since China as a whole has a completely different set of politics, a “one country, two systems” policy is what seperates the dynamics of the surrounding countries.

According to CNN, one of the tenets in the Basic Law is that Hong Kong has the right to develop its own democracy, and previous Chinese officials pledged that the central government in Beijing wouldn’t interfere with that. But in recent years, Beijing has repeatedly reinterpreted the Basic Law — now it says it has “complete jurisdiction” over Hong Kong.

Regarding the protests in Hong Kong, the reasons are very similar to what African-Americans deal with in the states; the press/fight for equality in all facets, especially partaining to police brutality. Like Hong Kong, we believe in democracy surrounding the ideology of capitalism and exercising freedoms that cater to all beliefs and inclusiveness. Many can argue how those freedoms are applicable to their lives, but as American citizens, you have guaranteed access to these rights and freedoms. When those rights are restricted, we exercise our rights to regain and utilize our freedoms. 

Morey’s overall comments on China’s current crisis never were the most pressing issue regarding the NBA’s relations in China. What makes this unfortunate situation so chaotic is the fact that we are discussing social issues within a country that we are doing business with, which is ultimately hurting the overall product that the NBA is trying to capitalize on. 

As a socially conscious sports league, the NBA has always been advocates for players and employees to speak out against the injustices that occur within our families and communities. Kerr and Popovich have always been the up-front leaders from a coaches standpoint along with players like LeBron James, Draymond Green, Stephen Curry, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, to name a few, when it comes to leading the social justice movements within the league. 

Those same athletes as well other fan favorites such as Derrick Rose, Damian Lillard and Dwyane Wade have various connections to China outside of the just playing NBA games. Those players have clothing brands (athletic apparel/gear, shoes, etc.) extending throughout China, and most likely were created in China. They have various fans across the Asian community that represent their brands as well as follow their careers as NBA players. 

In his song “Emotionless,” Drake said: “You know a wise man once said nothing at all.” As socially conscious and supportive as the league is, the NBA should’ve been wise enough to make sure no political outbursts took place during an important diplomatically-based trip to a foreign land.

Morey should have been disciplined for his comments. More importantly, the league is getting hit in their pockets and now not have to only resolve strained business ties with China, but also revive the partial symbolism of the global brand. 

There is a natural price that comes in fighting for equality. The NBA has learned what that cost looks like on a global scale.

These unfortunate circumstances will not stop players/NBA representatives from speaking out on social issues, but this setback will now keep people in check when exercising their freedom of speech rights in foreign territory, and ultimately make the league more conscious in finding ways to serve political justice while also securing the bag and maintain their positive brands and imagery. 

Joshua M. Hicks is a Senior Writer for WARR Media 

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