The game of foreign diplomacy
Democracy. The cornerstone of our country’s government. It’s a privilege that extends to us as Americans, but so few countries in the east hold this right. As a nation’s people fight for democracy in its lands, few would expect the National Basketball Association (NBA) to land within its crosshairs.
Daryl Morey, multi-millionaire, investor and GM of the Houston Rockets of the NBA recently found his job in jeopardy after criticizing the Chinese government’s repudiation over ongoing pro-democracy campaigns in Hong Kong. Morey, since deleting the tweet, has received death threats amongst other nasty remarks thrown upon his name.
Typically, a GM like Morey sending such a critical tweet would not warrant such a massive outcry. However, by expressing his support for the pro-democracy camp in Hong Kong, Morey is essentially threatening the future partnership between the NBA and China..
Despite Morey’s intentions, the NBA needs to recognize the fragility of this international predicament. For one thing, with Morey and the Houston Rockets’ players heading to China for a preseason game the NBA puts on for fans yearly, the revenue this event generates is at a dangerous standstill—especially since China has now threatened to cut all ties from the NBA.
The NBA is a corporation that greatly profits from its relations with foreign countries. As an American based company, their actions reflect the sentiments that are present in America. In other words, the NBA is in a way is acting as our country’s diplomat on the world stage. The corporation’s stature on this issue is far too relaxed as the severity of this situation escalates.
Typically, when a player speaks out on a controversial issue regarding topics such as international affairs or human rights, the National Basketball Player’s Association’s (NBPA) highest ranking members are quick to support the claims made. However, Los Angeles Lakers megastar Lebron James is not such a figure. While Morey showed his support for the Hong Kong people, James was the Hong Kong people’s biggest detractor. In an interview conducted by the NBPA, James said, “When you’re misinformed or you’re not educated about something, and I’m just talking about the tweet itself, you never know the ramifications that can happen.” Ironically, this statement triggered a wave of animosity from Hong Kong civilians.
And this is largely due to the integral role that culture and politics play in such a disruption. For the Chinese people, Morey’s tweet posed a threat, while James’ statement showed support.
The pro-democracy fervor that Morey’s platform supports does not align with China’s totalitarian state. Understanding and respecting Chinese culture from an American standpoint is not close to being easy, unfortunately. Given the political severity, it’s important that the NBA remains impartial–China is, after all, a massive source of revenue. And we can see this–to an extent. Rockets players James Harden and Russel Westbrook apologized on Morey’s behalf. “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.”
Further, actions taken by NBA commissioner Adam Silver reflect this notion even more so.
Silver has released semi-apologetic press releases that seem to jump back and forth between regret and progress relating to the situation. Understandably, it is tough to balance out a large representative’s views, personal ideals and the best interests for the entire association. Silver’s actions have been in the best interest of the association, as his releases have been passive, targeted at salvaging business deals that may have already been lost. The NBA players’, overall middle ground stance has been troubling to say the least. An organization, held to the standard that the NBA is, must fight for human rights at all costs, especially when a large figure like Morey opens up the floodgates.
International reach and cooperation have been somewhat of a bright spot in the NBA in recent years. Being named the LA Times’ most progressive professional sports league, the association is under some true fire for the first time in years.
Unfortunately for the NBA, this is not just some owner making poor comments; this is an international conflict that has been years in the making.
With the largely controversial subject being addressed at hand, the NBA relations with China have definitely been destroyed, and it is uncertain whether these disagreements will be amended.