Commissioner ‘Cop-Out’: NBA Can’t Engage in Foreign Relations With China

Jay Maxson | March 25, 2022
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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday told the New York Times his league is not soft on China and denied accusations that it is blackballing critic and former player Enes Kanter Freedom. Given the league’s actions on both regards, his claims rank low on the credibility meter.  

Commissioner Silver said “virtually every major U.S. company” is doing business with China, and asked, “Why is the NBA being singled out as the one company that should now boycott China? It’s very difficult for the league to practice foreign policy,” Silver said.  

China is the NBA’s largest market, and when people employed by NBA teams have criticized that ruthless nation, it has banned local broadcasts. By angering China in that way, the NBA lost money. Former Houston General Manger Daryl Morey, in 2019, advocated for freedom in Hong Kong, and China cut all NBA broadcasts that season. In 2021, Freedom launched a campaign against China and its human rights violation, resulting in Boston Celtics broadcast being banned in that country. The NBA knows it must please its Chinese overlords. 

Silver also refused to admit the league’s hypocrisy in withdrawing from Russia and maintaining business dealings with the communist dictatorship of China.  

No one is asking the NBA to “practice foreign policy.” That’s an air ball cop-out. No one is asking the NBA to engage in domestic policy either, and it is way over involved in that through its radical social justice activism and partisan politics. The problem is the NBA looks the other way on China’s human rights atrocities in order to protect a lucrative revenue source. It’s profits over principle. 

Dylan Gwinn, who writes for Breitbart, said, “However, as a private business, the NBA does not need the United States government to issue a boycott of China for the league to walk away from its dealings with the communist country.” 

The NBA “sought and in many ways secured a spot for itself as the premier American social justice league over the past two years,” Gwinn wrote. “So why shouldn’t it draw increased scrutiny if the league that claims to champion human rights and justice makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year doing business with the world’s most notorious trampler of human rights and justice?” 

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As for Freedom, he joined the Celtics as a free agent at the start of the current NBA season. Using Twitter, television interviews and designer basketball shoes, he has heavily criticized China. He demanded freedom for Tibet and those enslaved by China. His playing time was reduced, and earlier this year, Boston traded him to Houston. The Rockets promptly released him. It appears his anti-China activism has cost him his NBA career. 

Silver said of Freedom: “We spoke directly about his activities this season, and I made it absolutely clear to him that it was completely within his right to speak out on issues that he was passionate about.” Well, actions speak louder than words, and he disputes the commissioner’s remarks. Freedom said two people pressured him to shut up. 

“Instead of advocating on my behalf, I have encountered the union telling me I need to shut up and stop talking about the human rights violations in China,” Freedom. 

“It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize why I got little playing time and was released,” Freedom commented. “But it does take people with a conscience to speak out and say it’s not right.” 

Given the fact that Freedom was a prime-time player for Portland last season, the shabby treatment he has received from the NBA this season points directly to blackballing. In fact, he has a much stronger case for his charge of blackballing than Colin Kaepernick ever did.