Human rights only matter when money matters: NBA vs. China

Brandon Mills, Writer

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As many of you reading this may know, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and their relationship with China has been in turmoil for a little over a week now. The entire controversy started because Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey showed support for the protestors of Hong Kong in a tweet from his personal Twitter account. The since-then deleted tweet was a picture with the words “Fight For Freedom Stand With Hong Kong. Harmless enough, right?  

One man, following his own beliefs that the people of Hong Kong should be able to keep their rights that they have had forever, instead of having the Chinese government retroactively revoke them. The message is clear and nothing else should have come from this tweet. That is where we all as bystanders were sadly mistaken, and part of the reason I am writing about this subject now.  

Showing support for the people of Hong Kong created a public relations nightmare for the NBA and the Houston Rockets in general. One issue that has been brought up is that Morey tweeted from his personal account, where he can freely express his thoughts. Whether it was right or wrong for him to tweet this, he can tweet his thoughts and opinions however he sees fit. 

In his tweet, he did not say this is how the Houston Rockets feel or how the NBA feels, he tweeted the picture from his account, posing that he himself felt this way and that was all. It is an odd thing to see, especially when a league that is extremely proactive in the advocacy of human rights and talking out against their own government. I was stunned when players from the NBA were outright against what Morey tweeted.  

The reason that so many executives and players were mad at Morey is that China is the second-biggest market in the world for NBA and NBA merchandise, next to the USA. You see, when money is involved, from the way that the players were talking, human rights do not appear to matter. But if none of the players’ own money is involved, then human rights do matter and they feel free to speak up about what they believe in. This stance has bothered me and a lot of other people since the controversy started.  

Barstool Sports Founder Dave Portnoy said it perfectly when he said, “LeBron James is mad at Daryl Morey for supporting democracy because it inconvenienced him.” I love LeBron, but Portnoy is not wrong at all, this is the exact implication that the players are sending when they speak out against Morey supporting the protestors of Hong Kong.

A shirt designed and sold by Barstool Sports that shows James as Chinese Communist figure, with Chinese text under the image that reads “F*ck Daryl Morey.”

To be fair to the commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, he did remind players that they were never punished when they spoke out negatively against the President of the United States, Donald Trump, and the injustices they feel he has caused.  

This comes back to the main point, their money is not affected when they do that, so they do not care one bit about speaking up in that manner, but in China, where they can make potentially billions, they have a problem because their bank account is being played with and they don’t like it.  

All in all, I find it incredibly hypocritical that the owners and players would come out against Morey in this subject. Morey said his piece, which by the way, he is correct. There are human rights being neglected in Hong Kong and to not support democracy is insane especially when you live in America.  

It will be interesting to see how far the Chinese will go to scrub the NBA from their stores, and I do not think this is the last of this story. 

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