Sports

The NBA Cares More About Making Money in Mainland China Than Supporting Freedom in Hong Kong

The National Basketball Association has spent decades investing in China. Should that matter when it comes to supporting human rights?

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A single tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey has set off one of the biggest crises in NBA history. Morey shared this image over the weekend, while the Rockets were in Japan for a preseason basketball game: 

A damage control effort began immediately, with the National Basketball Association moving to protect its business interests in China.

Tillman Fertitta, who owns the Texas-based Landry's restaurant empire and purchased the Rockets last year for $2.2 billion, tweeted: "Listen. Daryl Morey does NOT speak for the Houston Rockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization." Meanwhile, the Chinese media company Tencent, which is paying the NBA $1.5 billion over five years to broadcast games in China (which has more NBA fans than America has people), announced that it will not show Rockets games this season.

Will that ban hold if the Rockets make the playoffs, let alone the finals? I'm skeptical. You pay to broadcast regular-season games in order to broadcast the playoffs. With 1,230 regular-season games each year, few fans will care that they can't watch the Rockets clobber the Charlotte Hornets or the Washington Wizards in the slog of the regular season. But Vegas has the Rockets at 8-to-1 to win it all, behind only the Clippers, Lakers, Bucks, and 76ers. Even Chinese fans who are genuinely mad at Morey for supporting the Hong Kong protests will be madder still if they can't watch James Harden and Russell Westbrook face off against Joel Embiid and the 76ers or Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks in June. 

Rather than asking if China's response to Morey's tweet is more bite than bark, we're collectively talking—as we perhaps should be—about the responses from Rockets franchisee Fertitta ("franchisee" being the NBA's new term for "team owner"), Rockets star shooting guard James Harden, the NBA itself, and the constellation of American politicians who have emerged from their opposing trenches to condemn the NBA for kowtowing to the Communist Party of China.  

Harden, who won the league's MVP award in 2018 and is either the best or second-best player (after Hakeem Olajuwon) to join the Rockets since they entered the league in 1967, also apologized for Morey: 

We apologize. You know, we love China, we love playing there. For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most important love. We appreciate them as a fan base. We love everything there about them and we appreciate the support that they give us individually and as an organization.

Morey quickly deleted the tweet and has since issued an apology of his own

I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives. I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.

The NBA issued two statements about the tweet, one in English and one in Chinese. Here are the relevant parts of the English version, via NBA.com

NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass said the league recognizes that Morey's tweet "deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable." Bass added that the league supports individuals "sharing their views on matters important to them."

"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," Bass said.

The Chinese version of the NBA statement appears to have been edited to play to that audience, the South China Morning Post reports

The NBA said on its official Chinese social media account that it was "extremely disappointed" by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's "inappropriate" tweet about Hong Kong, which "severely hurt the feelings of Chinese fans."

Bass' original statement does not call Morey's remarks "inappropriate" or mention "hurt feelings"—a phrase commonly used by Chinese authorities to describe perceived gaffes by foreign parties. 

Sens. Josh Hawley (R–Mo.), Ted Cruz (R–Texas), Rick Scott (R–Fla.), and Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) have all tweeted in support of Morey's right to support Hongkongers and against the Communist Party's decision to punish the Rockets and the NBA. They have also criticized the NBA's efforts to appease its business partners in China and preserve its relationship with Chinese fans.

There's a lot going on here, and it's not just about money—though it is definitely, absolutely, 100 percent very much about money. 

In 2002, the Rockets drafted Chinese national Yao Ming, making him the second Chinese national ever to be drafted into the NBA and the fourth foreign-born player to ever be drafted number one overall. Ming is now the president of the Chinese Basketball Association, which has also severed ties with the Rockets over Morey's tweet.

That relationship was incredibly important to Houston and the NBA. Wang Zhizhi, the first Chinese national to play in the NBA, was drafted in 1999 by Houston's in-state rival, the Dallas Mavericks. He played 136 games across five NBA seasons, averaging nine minutes and four points per game. But Ming was a revelation and a bona fide star. He played in 486 regular-season games, averaging 32 minutes and 19 points. In 2016 Ming was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, and in 2017 the Rockets retired his number and hung his jersey in the rafters. Were it not for his fragile feet—hardly uncommon in a man who stands 7'6″—he might've brought another championship to Houston. 

Instead, Ming brought the NBA to China. In 2004, China hosted two games between Ming's Rockets and the Sacramento Kings—the first NBA games in China since the Washington Bullets visited in 1979. Thanks largely to Ming's stardom in the U.S. and the NBA's willingness to go where no American league had so eagerly gone before them, NBA teams have played a few preseason exhibition games in China every year since 2007. It's a way to grow the market, reward Chinese fans, and enrich NBA teams.

This relationship has helped the NBA more than it helped China, where basketball has been the national sport since before the Cultural Revolution. As Helen Gao wrote a few years ago in The Atlantic

During the Cultural Revolution, Mao declared war against almost all Western bourgeois affections, from classical music to novels, but he never wavered in support of basketball. Deprived of all forms of cultural enrichment and lacking the most basic athletic equipment, children and young adults roamed around their neighborhoods, setting up boards and hoops in alleys and courtyards and pouring their energy into the simple game of shooting the hoops. "At that time, China had basically only two sports: basketball and ping pong," my father, a teenager during the height of the Cultural Revolution and a devout basketball fan told me. "If you were young and loved sports, you only got these two to choose from."

So yes, money is at stake, even if Tencent backs down on its ban at playoffs time. The $1.5 billion Tencent deal was supposed to be the first of many. There are also sneaker deals and other endorsements for NBA players, and connective strands of lesser import: Wish.com, an American e-commerce company that is heavily reliant on Chinese manufacturing, is a sponsor of the Los Angeles Lakers; the Chinese Basketball Association, meanwhile, announced this year that it will not sign any player currently barred from playing in the NBA. I suspect that the NBA's friendly relationship with the Chinese government also helps protect the league's intellectual property, in terms of both merchandise and streaming games. 

China and the NBA have been growing this partnership for decades. We now know, thanks to Morey, that the cost of that partnership is a moratorium on criticizing China's government. Should the NBA pay that price? The league's answer, in the short term at least, appears to be "yes."

Critics of the league's decision to placate China rather than challenge the country's eye-popping record of civil liberties abuses are understandably miffed that the NBA has lost the conviction it showed when it pulled its 2017 All-Star Weekend event from Charlotte. In that case, the league was protesting North Carolina's Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, which prohibited transgender men and women from using sex-segregated public spaces that do not correspond with the sexes listed on their birth certificates. What did that decision cost the NBA, its "franchisees," and its players? I don't know, but it was likely negligible. All-Star Weekend is a moneymaker for cities, and the NBA hosts it in a different city each year. The league had no problem shifting the event to New Orleans after pulling out of Charlotte, itself a weak NBA market whose team has sucked basically since joining the league in 1988.

The NBA also had no problem moving the event back to Charlotte for 2019, after North Carolina amended its bathroom law. Companies can do that kind of thing in America, because the private sector has real power here. The NBA, in particular, can do that kind of thing because the fan base here tends to be young, ethnically diverse, and more politically progressive than the NFL and the MLB fan bases. 

But the NBA can't speak out in China, which leaves it in the unenviable position of choosing either to sacrifice the diplomatic and financial inroads it has made in the world's largest basketball market, or to turn a blind eye not just to the protests in Hong Kong but to the internment of more than 1 million Uighurs and the development of oppressive surveillance systems.  

I suspect NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is pained and embarrassed that the league and its shareholders cannot be as bold in China as they are in America, but I bet he also knows that the NBA needs China more than China needs the NBA. Unless that changes, the NBA is going to play ball with the Communist Party. 

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  1. Why throw the NBA under the bus? A lot of people put many things before supporting freedom in HK or anywhere in China.

    1. If the NBA hadn’t been so happy to engage in domestic politics on things like pulling the all star game out of Charlotte over the bathroom law or allowing its players and coaches to take up the bullshit “hands up don’t shoot” nonsense, I would agree with you.

      But they did do that. And their willingness to intervene in American politics contrasted with this bullshit is pretty telling. They deserve to be thrown under the bus.

      1. “If the NBA hadn’t been so happy to engage in domestic politics on things like pulling the all star game out of Charlotte over the bathroom law or allowing its players and coaches to take up the bullshit “hands up don’t shoot” nonsense, I would agree with you.”

        Yeah, the NBA is not a political organization, except when it is.

        1. The underlying element to all this is an admission that violence works.

      2. Yeah, and that misogynistic owner who was forced to sell out.

        F the NBA. Worse than the NFL.

        1. You are not allowed to use the term “owner” anymore. Because that’s racist…..

    2. The curse of being a woke corporation. Once you happily and eagerly express things you disapprove of, by default, things you don’t criticize indicate that you support them.

  2. “The National Basketball Association has spent decades investing in China. Should that matter when it comes to supporting human rights?”

    Didn’t know that the NBA was a human rights organization.

    BTW, when can we expect the ACLU or Amnesty International to field a pro basketball team?

    1. They were a few months ago when they were going on and on about the North Carolina bathroom rule and Greg Popovich and Steve Kerr were shooting their mouths off about the evil Trump and the Deplorables. Oddly, they don’t seem to be now.

      1. It’s the same behavior you see from the people who screech about the religious right, then vanish when offered tickets to the Middle East.

    2. About the same time we can expect fair weather libertarians to brave a storm not of their liking.

      1. “fight my battles for me!!!”

    3. There was a time when one could come back with a “Chinaman walks into a bar” joke, but that was pre-woke.

      1. You’d think he would have seen it!

  3. This is a great example of how trade goes both ways. Free traders are endlessly preaching how trade with China will make it more free by giving the US more economic leverage. To the extent that is true, the reverse is also true. The US trading with China gives the Chinese government leverage over us. That is all that is happening here. The NBA makes a large portion of its income from shoe companies. The show companies make a lot of their products in China. Also, the NBA has a huge revenue stream from selling its merchandise in China. So, when the Chinese government talks, the NBA understandably listens.

    One of the costs of doing business with China is the Chinese government exerting a lot of control over what US companies will and will not allow their employees to say.

  4. “I suspect NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is pained and embarrassed that the league and its shareholders cannot be as bold in China as they are in America, but I bet he also knows that the NBA needs China more than China needs the NBA. Unless that changes, the NBA is going to play ball with the Communist Party.”

    This debate has been going on with other companies since before China joined the WTO–back when we used to argue over MFN status for China during the Clinton administration, especially in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

    To whatever extent the companies of the world can shame the Chinese government into treating their own people better than they do, it is because they’re present and operating in China. Meanwhile, if the Chinese government were immune to caring public criticism and shame, they wouldn’t get so upset about what the NBA says about them.

    This is also a lot like the kinds of arguments we used to have during the Cold War over Jean Kirkpatrick’s ideas (implemented by the Reagan administration) over the costs and benefits of engagement with regimes like Pinochet’s in Chile.

    When those arguments were already old, late in Reagan’s administration, Pinochet held a referendum on his own rule–and stepped down after he lost. He did not do that because he was a nice guy. He did because he feared intentional condemnation of his government if he didn’t hold the election or step down when he lost, and he did it, especially, to preserve Chile’s relationship with the United States.

    You might even say that the reason the people of Chile were able to avoid the civil war necessary to bring Pinochet down was because the U.S. had a good relationship with Chile despite their awful behavior during the Cold War.

    As we stand, the legitimacy of China’s government hangs from a thread that’s largely dependent on exporting their manufactured products to the United States. If trade with the United States were halted for some reason, Emperor Xi might well lose the mandate of heaven and see his empire fall into chaos due to the economic fallout.

    The fact that China is worried or upset about criticism from the NBA demonstrates the fact that the NBA has leverage with China. The reason Emperor Xi hasn’t gone all Tienanmen on the protesters in Hong Kong is not because of the goodness in his heart. It is because he fears the condemnation of private entities who are present in China, especially–like the NBA.

    The only thing worse than the NBA continuing to invest in their relationship with China, despite the misbehavior of the Chinese government, would be relginquish the source of their influence–just to appease the sensibilities of American Pollyannas.

    1. No. It shows that China has leverage with the NBA. If the NBA had any leverage, they would not have rolled over so quickly and bent over backwards to undo a simple tweet by one of its employees.

      Trading with China has given China leverage over institutions they didn’t have before. In 1989, large corporations and sports leagues and Indian Chiefs could say whatever they wanted to about China and there was nothing the Chinese government could do about it. Now that is no longer true. The Chinese government’s getting the NBA to apologize for this has nothing to do with the NBA having leverage over it. It is showing that the Chinese now can control public criticism of them even in otherwise “free” nations like the US.

      1. “If the NBA had any leverage, they would not have rolled over so quickly and bent over backwards to undo a simple tweet by one of its employees.”

        Because the NBA (or any other company) doesn’t have enough leverage over China to change this or that policy all by itself, doesn’t mean they don’t have any influence.

        I maintain that the Chinese government fears the criticism of entities like the NBA, especially for being a “soft power” consumer products company, and that this fear significantly influences the reasons why Xi, for instance, hasn’t exercised his option to really come down hard on the protesters.

        Xi isn’t only worried about the NBA influencing people on mainland China or the protesters in Hong Kong, either. He’s also concerned about any influence companies like the NBA may have on people in Taiwan.

        1. Because the NBA (or any other company) doesn’t have enough leverage over China to change this or that policy all by itself, doesn’t mean they don’t have any influence.

          Not necessarily but it doesn’t mean they have influence either. Whatever influence the NBA has over China, it clearly wasn’t enough to allow them to let one of their employees so much as criticize the Chinese government in their private capacity. So, you can tell yourself they have leverage and maybe they do, but there is no evidence that leverage is in any way significant.

          I maintain that the Chinese government fears the criticism of entities like the NBA, especially for being a “soft power” consumer products company, and that this fear significantly influences the reasons why Xi, for instance, hasn’t exercised his option to really come down hard on the protesters.

          That may be correct. But since they can use their leverage to control those organizations, what difference does it make? The end result is China strong arming the NBA into controlling what its American employees can say. The fact that the Chinese are now worried about that where before they didn’t care doesn’t change the result or make it any less disturbing.

          The bottom line here is that China is able to use its influence to make losing your job the price of exercising your 1st Amendment right to criticize the Chinese government. How you can see that as a good news story or sign that US companies have all of this leverage over China is beyond me.

          1. “There is no evidence that leverage is in any way significant.”

            They might have said the same about Pinochet, right up until the moment he called for a referendum on his own rule and stepped down when he lost.

            I also maintain that China doesn’t keep an eagle eye on everything its people read about and say online–because they’re unafraid of criticism. When the NBA or Apple or anyone else speaks out against them, it circumvents those controls, and they fear that for the same reason they fear what their own people are hearing from each other.

            I would also argue that the influence necessary to make the government reluctant to crackdown on the protesters may be significant–even if it isn’t enough to change policy. There is some combination of contributing factors involved in why Emperor Xi hasn’t done to Hong Kong what he did in Tibet, to the Uyghurs, or what they did at Tienanmen Square in 1989, and the fear of what private entities, like the NBA, would say about the Chinese government if they cracked down is surely among them.

            I call that real influence.

            1. They might have said the same about Pinochet, right up until the moment he called for a referendum on his own rule and stepped down when he lost.

              Yes you could. Pinochet opened the society and was never anywhere close to as oppressive as the Chinese. You are comparing apples to oranges. The Chinese are not Pinochet.

              I also maintain that China doesn’t keep an eagle eye on everything its people read about and say online–because they’re unafraid of criticism. When the NBA or Apple or anyone else speaks out against them, it circumvents those controls, and they fear that for the same reason they fear what their own people are hearing from each other.

              That may be true. But again, so what? The end result of that fear is them using their influence to make it harder for Americans to criticize them. They are even more afraid of their own people doing so. That fact doesn’t make their oppression any less real or objectionable. The fact that they are afraid of American criticism doesn’t make their influence in stiffing it any less nefarious.

              The bottom line here is that your position seems to be that the NBA has so much leverage and influence over China that the Chinese are able to force the NBA to punish any of its employees who publicly criticize the Chinese government.

              Sorry Ken but that makes no sense. You are just pretending reality is something other than what it obviously is.

              1. “The bottom line here is that your position seems to be that the NBA has so much leverage and influence over China that the Chinese are able to force the NBA to punish any of its employees who publicly criticize the Chinese government.”

                My point is that it may be in the best interests of democracy activists in China for the NBA, and other consumer products companies, to maintain their presence in China–even if that means distancing themselves from the position of one of their employee’s, who willingly took a risk on by publicly criticizing the Chinese government.

                “Meanwhile, the Chinese media company Tencent, which is paying the NBA $1.5 billion over five years to broadcast games in China (which has more NBA fans than America has people), announced that it will not show Rockets games this season.”

                Losing the influence the NBA has over NBA fans in China will not help Hong Kong’s protesters any, but maintaining that influence might well be contributing to the reason why Emperor Xi hasn’t ordered a total massacre in Hong Kong a la Tienanmen.

                1. My point is that it may be in the best interests of democracy activists in China for the NBA, and other consumer products companies, to maintain their presence in China–even if that means distancing themselves from the position of one of their employee’s, who willingly took a risk on by publicly criticizing the Chinese government.

                  That is nice but you give no evidence that these company’s “leverage” whatever that is is being used to help them and offer no suggestions for how it could in the future. In the mean time, those company’s presence in China is resulting in the free speech of Americans being curtailed at the threat of losing their jobs. You seem incapable of understanding that side of it. According to you Americans should be willing to live in a world where the Chinese via their employer determines if they can criticize the Chinese government without losing their jobs because doing so gives us “leverage” over the Chinese or something.

                  Again, Ken, your position is totally at odds with reality.

                  Losing the influence the NBA has over NBA fans in China will not help Hong Kong’s protesters any, but maintaining that influence might well be contributing to the reason why Emperor Xi hasn’t ordered a total massacre in Hong Kong a la Tienanmen.

                  Two things. The only influence or restraint such a position could ever have over the Chinese comes with the threat of leaving. But, you would never want them to leave. So, no there is no influence because the Chinese know that no matter what they do the NBA isn’t going anywhere because of people like you.

                  Second, even if there is influence, that influence isn’t worth having since it comes at the price of the Chinese having influence over America.

                2. Ken, you are playing the long game, holding our criticism until it will be decisive. If/when the crackdown in HK happens we will see what influence the NBA – or anyone – has.

                  1. I think it’s helping to make China more reluctant to crack down now than they would be otherwise.

                    Tienanmen happened before we had a trade relationship with China. Maybe the same things would have happened eventually anyway, but I bet they would be even more reluctant today.

                    1. Tiananmen didnt happen at the start of the protest. Appeasement let hitler invade multiple countries. Sometimes you dont wait until the tragedy.

                    2. No, my company had a trade relationship with China in 1982.

        2. I maintain that the Chinese government fears the criticism”

          communist fear criticism by everyone every where all the time leverage or not. Thats how those regeimes survive by silencing everyone. Hence their new social credit system that is also being implemented in America through FaceBook and others. American corporate aquiesence will be Americas downfall

          1. Dictators of all kinds fear what their people are saying to each other about them–as well they should.

            Sometimes, it seems to me that we waste our attention on elections when persuading our friends and family is more important.

      2. “In 1989, large corporations and sports leagues and Indian Chiefs could say whatever they wanted to about China and there was nothing the Chinese government could do about it. Now that is no longer true.”

        Fear of angering various interests and mitigating one’s speech because of it is an inherent feature to market economies. Companies generally shy away from criticizing governments everywhere in the world. The NFL isn’t generally excited about criticizing the Trump administration either.

        1. Fear of angering various interests and mitigating one’s speech because of it is an inherent feature to market economies. Companies generally shy away from criticizing governments everywhere in the world.

          This is very true Ken. And that is why trading with countries like China who have totalitarian governments who will use that leverage in nefarious ways is not a very good idea. What you say is also true of trading with Canada or the UK. The difference between trading with them and trading with China is that both Canada and the UK are almost certainly never going to successfully demand a corporation discipline one of its American employees living in America for criticizing their governments and China is. And that makes trading with China much less desirable.

          1. Have you noticed that we have more influence with China than we do with North Korea?

            Why do you suppose that is the case?

            I suspect it’s because we have a thriving trade relationship with China, and we have little or none with North Korea.

            To what extent do the working conditions in Apple’s Chinese factories reflect the concerns of American consumers?

            To what extend do the working conditions in North Korea reflect the concerns of American consumers?

            1. Have you noticed that we have more influence with China than we do with North Korea?

              Sure we do. I have never denied that we have some influence over China. What you seem to not understand or just refuse to acknowledge is that the influence goes both ways. China has more influence over us than North Korea.

              You seem to think that influence only goes one way. It doesn’t. Whatever influence we have over China, it has not prevented them from being one of the most oppressive governments on earth and it has come with the cost of the Chinese exerting leverage over Americans down to what they can and cannot say about China.

              1. I’m not denying that fact at all.

                It’s like admitting that international trade sometimes means Americans lose their jobs to foreign competition–and still supporting international trade anyway because of the upsides.

                To whatever extent that China holds undue influence over Americans, that is regrettable–but worth it. You’ve seen me argue before against forced technology transfers and say that I oppose Trump’s trade war anyway–because I think our trade relationship is worth more to our economy than rectifying that forced technology transfer situation is worth. I don’t, however, deny that there are downsides.

                The influence trade has brought us over China is an upside. I wish we had such influence with Iran.

                1. To whatever extent that China holds undue influence over Americans, that is regrettable–but worth it.

                  And you offer absolutely no evidence why that would be true other than some vague notion of us influencing China for the better. Beyond the utilitarian balance of interests here, why the hell is it the American public’s duty to give up its freedom to criticize China in hopes this somehow makes China free? It is not and it is insulting as hell for you to claim it is. Fuck you Ken. I don’t owe my freedom of speech to help the Chinese deal with their screwed up government.

                  1. If your boss told you not to criticize China or lose your job, you might think differently.

                    It would be great if the NBA would send the Houston Poohs to play the New York Eeyores in China. Or, better yet, in Hong Kong.

                    1. If my boss told me that, I would find it appalling. Why would be a victim of this cause me to think differently?

                    2. Don’t care what you’d think, What would you DO? Find another job?

                    3. I mean, c’mon, guys. Let’s not go too far down the rabbit hole.

                      The sales lady doing the full figured fashion at Nordstrom’s isn’t allowed to say whatever she wants.

                      The guy that works the drive thru at McDonalds isn’t allowed to say whatever he wants.

                      If you want to say whatever you want, you better do it at a job where your political opinion won’t impact your boss’ business. That’s always the way been the general rule, and that’s always the way it’s been.

                  2. “And you offer absolutely no evidence why that would be true other than some vague notion of us influencing China for the better.”

                    If you’re looking for evidence of the value of China’s trade relationship to the U.S., look to the amount of trade there has been between our countries since China joined the WTO in 2001–especially the value of imports.

                    https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5700.html

                    The standard of living improves when consumers can afford to buy more and better things than they could before, and everything that’s been manufactured in China and sold in the U.S. since 2001 was bought by someone in the U.S. who thought buying those imported items and saving that money so they could spend it on more and better things was in their own best interests.

                    1. Ken, you are begging the question. The issue is not that there is trade going on. The issue is whether that trade is causing the Chinese to act any differently or more to our liking. And there is no evidence it is. Pointing to there being lots of trade does not answer the question of what the effect of that trade is.

                      Try again.

                    2. “To whatever extent that China holds undue [due?] influence over Americans, that is regrettable–but worth it.

                      —-Ken Shultz

                      “And you offer absolutely no evidence why that would be true other than some vague notion of us influencing China for the better.”

                      —-John

                      https://www.census.gov/foreign-trade/balance/c5700.html

                      Trillions and trillions in imports isn’t evidence?

                2. What the NBA has done here, and what other media companies have done with regards to these sorts of issues suggests we have very little influence, if any.

                3. I oppose Trump’s trade war anyway–because I think our trade relationship is worth more to our economy than rectifying that forced technology transfer situation is worth.

                  Here you are favoring immediate payoff rather than longer term benefits. Very bad idea. Losing IP and technical advantages will take a while to hurt us, but it will be deadly.

                  1. If your position is you want the money and don’t care about the costs, fine. The problem with Ken’s position is that he pretends there are no costs or trade offs and also that trading with China is somehow going to make them more free rather than just embolden and enrich a very bad regime. And that is delusional.

                    1. My position is ‘pick your battles’. Some are important, even existential, others are temporal. NBA is temporal, for the moment, for the USA, but closer to existential for the NBA.

                  2. “Here you are favoring immediate payoff rather than longer term benefits. Very bad idea. Losing IP and technical advantages will take a while to hurt us, but it will be deadly.”

                    I have long argued against these forced technology transfers, argued that getting rid of them wasn’t worth it at the cost of our trade relationship with China (that’s long term thinking), and I’ve argued, repeatedly, that I hope I’m wrong about the threat to our long term trade relationship with China–and that Donald Trump is right.

                    In fact, I fear that if Liz Warren is elected president, her preference will not be to patch up our trade relationship with China at all. If Trump doesn’t fix the trade relationship he gambled with, it may be gone for the foreseeable future–or our lifetimes.

                    1. Forget forced transfers Ken. The Chinese just steal the technology. How can you trade with a country that engages in systematic industrial espionage and sees trade as an avenue for technology theft and political domination?

                    2. Losing the IP dispute will also cost us the trade relationship, as well as the military advantage.

                      THAT is long term thinking.

                    3. “Losing the IP dispute will also cost us the trade relationship, as well as the military advantage.

                      THAT is long term thinking.”

                      Trump could cave, and I hope he does, but if he doesn’t, then I hope I’m wrong.

                      Military questions are completely different. We’ve been restricting that stuff since before China joined the WTO. Clinton got in trouble for facilitating that kind of transfer–allegedly in a deal for campaign contributions.

                      Also, as far as the trade relationship, apart from militarily sensitive technology, it’s a barrier to trade that some companies decide is worth it in order to get access to the market. I don’t like it if Caterpillar has to share their designs with a competitor in order to manufacture in China, but if that’s what they decide to do, I’m not sure holding the rest of our trade relationship with China hostage is worth it to fight for a company that’s chosen to comply because they think the upsides are better than the downsides.

                    4. Military questions are not separable from IT issues. This ain’t 1940. 5G technology, AI, facial recognition, etc all have military applications.

                    5. “Military questions are not separable from IT issues. This ain’t 1940. 5G technology, AI, facial recognition, etc all have military applications.”

                      Then their trade should be banned on a military basis–just as other things always have been. That’s no reason not to trade with China otherwise.

            2. Why do you suppose that is the case?

              Mostly because China deliberately props-up North Korea as a fuck-you-by-proxy to the US, thus cutting off the influence we would otherwise have.

              To what extent do the working conditions in Apple’s Chinese factories reflect the concerns of American consumers?

              To what extend do the working conditions in North Korea reflect the concerns of American consumers?

              The Chinese factories reflect American concerns for about fifteen more minutes then North Korea factories. So you’re right, but don’t overstate the importance.

              1. “The Chinese factories reflect American concerns for about fifteen more minutes then North Korea factories.”

                That’s factually incorrect.

                Apple, for instance, is at least as sensitive to worker conditions in its Chinese factories as American buyers of iPhones are concerned.

                They police their own factories and respond to criticism by outside parties, as well–and they’re hardly alone. I mean, c’mon, the idea that consumer preferences about things like working conditions don’t have any influence on consumer products companies is absurd–especially from a market perspective.

                People in North Korea dream of escaping so they can go work at a Foxconn plant in southern China.

    2. The problem with using one’s influence to shame a government over emerging they have is a common morality that sees what they get are doing as ethically questionable. The people who run China do not see anything wrong in what they do in Hong Kong and therefore cannot be shamed. Plus, a company can only exert influence if the government thinks it needs you more than you need them. The NBA folded so easily here, that it is obvious they have no leverage over China at all.

      1. The NBA folded so easily here, that it is obvious they have no leverage over China at all.

        It is obvious to everyone but Ken. It is just fucking laughable that he can look at this situation and somehow convince himself, “man we really have the Chinese where we want them”.

        And it is regrettable that the Chinese will now use their economic influence to ensure that there is as little public criticism of them in the United States as possible. But Ken assures us that is a price worth paying because of all this “leverage” we now have.

        1. Chinese access to the US market uber alles

      2. “The people who run China do not see anything wrong in what they do in Hong Kong and therefore cannot be shamed.”

        It isn’t just that this violates everything I know about traditional Chinese culture; it’s also that it ignores the lengths to which the Chinese government goes to shut down criticism.

        The Chinese government is scared to death of criticism. They have devoted an incredible amount of effort and money to make sure people don’t criticize them. It’s their primary obsession.

        The only thing that scares them more than criticism is actual insurrection, as in places like Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, Tienanmen, and Xinjiang, or against what seem to be insurrectionkist movements like Falun Gong. And fear of criticism is driven by the fear of those kinds of insurrections.

        They are highly sensitive to shame, much more so than we are in the U.S. By comparison, the U.S. is impervious to shame. The worst enemies of the Chinese state, out of their sense of propriety, wouldn’t say the things average people in the U.S. say about our presidents all the time. Being criticized in the U.S. can be bad. Being shamed in China is beyond humiliating.

        1. You seem to miss the fact that the Chinese successfully shut down the criticism here Ken. That is the entire point, they hate criticism and will use the economic leverage you want to give them to stop Americans from doing it.

          1. They’re awful worried about what people are reading about them to say that they’re immune to shame. They didn’t fly off the handle over a tweet because they’re immune to shame. They aren’t worried about what the NBA says about them because they’re immune to shame.

            1. In addition to traditional ‘saving face’, they are aware they are doing lots of awful things that people know about, only in part. If all their criminal behavior is discussed the people might be more restive.

              1. And they don’t want it to seem like it’s common knowledge by coming from a polite source. They’re trying to keep the criticism outside the sides of the Overton window.

                It’s like we have here in the U.S. with cancel culture. They’d rather you actually harass someone than come out in public and say something that suggests harassing someone is okay. It’s saying it in public that’s the problem–we can’t have people thinking this is okay.

                P.S. Did anybody else see the Chinese kung fu flick, “Hero” on Netflix? The moral of the story? The hero allows himself to be executed because we can’t have people thinking that there can be any more than one emperor. Without everyone unified behind one emperor, there’s nothing but chaos?

                I hate seeing CCP propaganda sold as a popcorn movie on Netflix, but it is a fun flick!

    3. The reason Emperor Xi hasn’t gone all Tienanmen on the protesters in Hong Kong is not because of the goodness in his heart. It is because he fears the condemnation of private entities who are present in China, especially–like the NBA.

      It’s because the money flows through Hong Kong.

  5. When Soviet communist dictators were bullying Poland, a letter in Physics Today suggested Poland apply for U.S. Statehood under Article IV, Section 3, as an alternative to Soviet communist domination. After all, Alaska was admitted as a State despite its closeness to Canada and Russia. Hawaii became a State, albeit following occupation by coercion. Puerto Ricans can’t make up their minds–but both are islands in which peace was once lacking. The application to become a State (or Territorial possession like Samoa) could be a petition to Congress signed directly by the citizens to bypass their sockpuppet “representatives.”

    1. I hate admitting this but you’re consistently very good.

      1. Indeed — one go the best remaining commenters

    2. If a player would Tweet “I stand with Hong Kong”, he would immediately become my favorite player. The Chicoms would go insane but there wouldn’t be a damn thing the NBA could do about it. No way would disciplining a player over that stand up in court under the CBA.

      1. Wrong court. On the court some other players might object to having their meal ticket punched, not to mention franchisees, Nike, etc. Nice shoe contract you got there, be awful if something happened to it.

    3. During the Chinese national anthem? Or are they not doing that yet?

    4. yeah this is hilarious every time I’ve read it

  6. In my purview, the NBA has placed the all mighty dollar (or yuan, in this case) before principles or human rights. I am wholeheartedly in favor of good relations with China, so long as China wants to get in line with the rest of the civilized world. Now, I’m not sure how much NBA I will be watching this winter.

    1. Watch, just complain to the sponsors.

    2. The whole point of this is China does not give a rats ass what you or any country thinks about its “internal matters.” They are one party and no public opinion allowed, and if anyone who wants to do lucrative business with them goes along.

      1. Apparently they care enough about what some random NBA employee that nobody ever heard of thinks about it’s internal matters to squelch a $4 billion per year relationship.

    3. I’ll be watching exactly as much as I did last year.

  7. >>>Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization.”

    promotion = politics, dummy

  8. What makes this outrage from Reason so especially dumb is the standard reasoning behind free trade and disgust with embargoes even with Cuba, Venezuela, and North Korea. You can’t very well embrace free trade and be pissed at someone for taking you at your word.

    1. You are exactly right. But you have to remember that Reason is like Ken Shutlz and have a religious conviction that trade only has positive benefits and no government would ever use its economic power for ill.

      1. I also remember that you think managed trade is better than free trade, that you think trading with regimes you don’t like should be banned by government.

        I frankly don’t give a shit about what *you* or *I* or anyone else perceive as the positive and negative benefits of trade, free or otherwise. The only people with a legitimate say in that are the traders themselves.

        Why do so many people think it their business to mind other people’s business, especially by co-opting Johnny Law because their arguments fail to sway the participants themselves?

        1. I also remember that you think managed trade is better than free trade, that you think trading with regimes you don’t like should be banned by government.

          That would make you a mendacious moron who has no idea what my actual positions and likely too stupid to understand them if you did.

          I would love to educate you on how international trade works and the trade offs that come with it but frankly you are just a fucking retarded asshat and even attempting to speak with you as a functioning adult would be a waste of everyone’s time.

          So I don’t give a fuck what you think about much of anything. You are incapable of having an intelligent or honest thought, so why would anyone?

        2. Why do so many people think it their business to mind other people’s business, especially by co-opting Johnny Law because their arguments fail to sway the participants themselves?

          I mean, we do have all of human history as precedent that this is how it works, so it’s not like folks are inventing this idea whole cloth.

  9. ‘Reason’ is opposed to a company making money? Are pigs flying over glaciers in Hell?

    This comment not approved by Silicon Valley brain slugs.

  10. Did the NBA’s statement include visuals of Adam Silver abasing himself, head to the floor, in a proper kow tow?

  11. [Every business] Cares More About Making Money in Mainland China Than Supporting Freedom in Hong Kong, from Kenny G to Agribusiness to Basketball.

    Because money talks and bullshit [as well as opinions about freedom] walks. And that country speaks with one voice of the communist party. Which oversees a capitalist economy; does that not make it fascist?

  12. “I suspect NBA Commissioner Adam Silver is pained and embarrassed…”

    LOL, no he’s not. He’s probably quite pleased to have been given the opportunity to demonstrate his loyalty to Beijing, and likely expects to be richly rewarded for it.

    If there has been one tangible effect of the Trump presidency it has been to reveal to everyone just how full of bullshit our “betters” are when it comes to everything from human rights to personal finances to political corruption. Even Gillespie agrees.

    1. Pose like a tough culture warrior to impress your friends, cave like a craven coward when there is real money on the line.

      Behold today’s ‘elites.’

  13. “The NBA Cares More About Making Money in Mainland China Than Supporting Freedom in Hong Kong.”

    Well, not shit Sherlock.
    The NBA is filled with near illiterates (and I’m not just talking about the players) who will take money over oppression any time.
    I have an idea.
    Let’s take all the proggies, and that includes the idiots in the NBA who is kissing the PRC’s ass, and have them live in the PRC for say a short time, say a hundred years, and America will absorb all the people of Hong Kong for the next century.
    This way, the proggies and all the useful idiots out there who love Stalinist oppression can live and thrive in a communist country where they are more comfortable, and the people of Hong Kong can live here and will only have to worry about the democrats and republicans who want to take over their freedoms a little at a time.

  14. To give you an idea of the amount of money involved here, several years ago, deplaning at an airport in far western China, the first billboard ad at the end of the jet-way was Steph Curry peddling his (sponsor’s) wear.
    This in a region where you can’t travel 50Km without a stop to check your papers, where international cell-phone access was ‘not available’, where any mention of Tibet on BBS Asia came with immediate ‘technical difficulties’.
    Claim commission or omission, but Steph Curry is certainly profiting from the use of his image in an area which is militarily occupied by the Han Chinese.
    The NBA may claim to be ‘non-political’, but if so, they have a LOT of explaining to do.

  15. That’s fine, Harden. Next time the pigs shoot an unarmed black guy in the back for selling loosies, I don’t want to hear that bearded commie nigger whining about brutality in America. He can go suck a Chink for his running shoe money.

    1. Man, some of you guys are taking this OBL play acting schtick to a whole ‘nother level…

  16. This is the same NBA that refuses to call owners “owners” because if slavery; that expelled a person formerly known as an “owner” from the league due to racially obnoxious comments he was recorded making; that boycotted North Carolina for being mean to trans persons, with its commissioner talking about teaching North Carolina a “lesson;” that has teams loudly refusing to go to the Trump White House because he’s evil; and that has as its biggest star a man who regularly vilified G.W. Bush and now regularly vilifies Trump.

    But when it comes to a government that denies its citizens basic human rights, that openly oppresses religious and ethnic minorities as a matter of government policy far worse than denying them their choice of bathrooms, and that treats what it still calls “homosexuality” as a crime — suddenly the NBA is not political and disowns those who criticize that government?

    What phonies.

    1. A hypocritical one besides,

  17. This article should be updated to reflect that:

    a) Silver defended Morey’s right to free speech as a non-negotiable American value

    b) In retaliation to Silver’s statement, CCTV has announced a ban on all NBA games

    It seems that the NBA is not quite as spineless as the article is portraying it to be.

    1. Defending someone’s free speech (an “American value” which wouldn’t apply in China) rather than actually validating the content is not the same thing. Silver just wanted to have it both ways. If Morey condemned white supremacy Silver wouldn’t merely say “Well he has the right to free speech”

      The NBA (headed by James Harden and the Rockets owner) actively groveled at China’s feet when this controversy broke out. They’re plenty spineless.

  18. “Oh no, we’re not a political organization, no politics in the NBA please if it means displeasing China PLEASE”

    Marvel at the moral convictions of quisling weasels. Adam Silver banished Donald Sterling (recognized as a humanitarian by the NAACP and the adoring liberal establishment) for life as if he was leper, and nothing he did could even compared to the least of the bad things happening in China.

    What’s the ratio of Hollywood stars standing up for HK / criticizing China and blasting Donald Trump on award stages? 100 to 1? The female director who directed the Mulan went on a long rant about how Hollywood hates women directors but minced words when asked by Hong Kong. I won’t be watching that film and Pedo Guardian of Galaxy.

  19. “The NBA Cares More About Making Money in Mainland China Than Supporting Freedom in Hong Kong”

    From the #ClownMagazine that considers the slightest impediment to Slave Emperor Xi’s access to the US market a crime against humanity.

    “Libertarian Moment”

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