• Disgrace in China: NBA Reveals Profits Mean More to Them than Persons

    Surge Summary: The NBA’s shameful response to pressure from the oppressive Chinese government reveals the league is not ultimately interested in human rights, but will allow markets and profits to overrule their supposed values.

    The editors at National Review concede at one time American companies doing business in China could make a respectable argument “they were doing good even as they did well”. Cheaper Chinese labor and that nation’s vast and expanding market could benefit them, they avowed, while their operations were also contributing to the opening up of the Communist dictatorship to greater liberty and the free market.

    However, the public-relations crises currently challenging the National Basketball Association – the worst in the league’s history, write NR’s scribes – make the true story clear.

    “You may be able to do well in the Chinese market, but you will not be able to do good,” they state flatly.

    In fact, the reverse is likely to be the case. American access to Chinese markets is conditioned on adopting Chinese approaches to free expression. The Chinese market doesn’t liberalize: It oppresses.

    If you rewind the tape a mere eight days, the NBA enjoyed a reputation as a league that was both progressive and free. Yes, the league had a definite political bent — it was perhaps the most left-wing of all the American sports leagues — but it also had a free-wheeling culture that endorsed employee expression. Conservatives could love the liberty even if they disliked the leftism.

    Then, they report, earlier in October Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey briefly tweeted — then expeditiously deleted — a statement in support of the Hong Kong protests.

    The response was extraordinary. The owner of the Rockets quickly distanced himself from Morey, the NBA issued a mealy-mouthed statement that tried to placate China while not exactly condemning Morey, NBA star James Harden apologized to the Chinese, and a number of normally outspoken progressives in the league (such as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr) mumbled some version of “it’s complicated” when asked about Chinese atrocities.

    The league essayed damage control. A second statement was released, this one more firmly supportive of free speech. Problem was, its teams kept delivering a contradictory vibe.

    Fans were tossed from the arena in Philadelphia and had signs confiscated in Washington for voicing support for Hong Kong or China’s embattled Muslim minority, and a Houston Rockets team official shut down a question from a CNN reporter to Harden and star guard Russell Westbrook about political engagement (the NBA later apologized). In an act of obvious frustration, the NBA banned news conferences entirely for the remainder of its most recent tour through China.

    But the NBA is not alone in kowtowing to Chinese censorship. Activision Blizzard, which is maker of popular video games like Hearthstone and World of Warcraft suspended one of its “professional Hearthstone players” – that’s a thing? — for a year (!!); and made him forfeit prize money (!!!). What was his crime or infraction? He publicly backed Hong Kong protesters.

    Deadspin got hold of a copy of an ESPN memo directing its on-air personalities to avoid discussing Chinese policies. Apple, for its part, banned an app that Hong Kong protesters were using to track police.

    In all these cases, China is leveraging its daunting commercial power to manipulate the policies of American companies in order to empower Chinese censorship. We are facing the grim reality of these businesses actively facilitating a despotic regime.

    If there is a silver lining to this dark cloud, it’s that the NBA (and ESPN and Apple and Blizzard) have united Americans across the political spectrum. Progressives and conservatives alike are repulsed by the rank opportunism and venal censorship of allegedly “woke” American corporations. Each new progressive corporate foray into American politics should be met with an immediate follow-up: “Thank you for your thoughts on pro-life laws in Georgia. Do you care to comment on the concentration camps near your basketball camp in the People’s Republic of China? Do you care to comment on your decision to silence Americans who dissent from Chinese repression in Hong Kong? Do you have any thoughts on aiding Hong Kong police by deleting an app that helps protesters avoid physical beatings?”

    Exposing corporate hypocrisy is handy, and we ought to be glad of it. That aside, a much deeper issue stands firm:

    American companies seeking access to the Chinese market risk being conscripted into the Chinese system of repression.

    But for now, the NBA is exposed. When push comes to shove, it is not progressive. It does not love liberty. It’s a crass commercial enterprise masquerading as a value-laden league. Its “bravest” voices — those who are ready, willing, and eager to uncork angry screeds against domestic political foes — have trouble making the mildest of statements against truly horrific human-rights violations. How “complicated” are concentration camps, exactly? Keep this up, and the NBA may well find that its craven appeasement of 10 percent of its revenue market will cost it dearly with the 90 percent who truly pay its multi-billion dollar bills.

    It’s a startling situation, watching literal Commies using the greedy and venal impulses of despised “capitalists” to co-opt and control them. Within their own borders – including lately, the borders of Hong Kong – the Chinese government bullies are using the baton to coerce those who resist them in any way. Abroad? It’s turning out the baton might not be necessary at all; at least not when the “buck” will do the trick.

    H/T: Editors/National Review

    Image: Adapted from: PDPics from Pixabay 

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