These professional sports leagues — at least the NFL and the NBA — always like to preach to the rest of us everything that’s on their minds until something messes with their money. Never mind the fact the money in question this go-around comes from a communist government currently attempting to place an adjacent territory under their authoritarian thumb. We’re constantly told that we need to be accepting of their views, because they’re going to be “on the right side of history.”
Okay, well if that’s true, how do you explain the NBA’s clear submission to the money of China?
In yet another example — in a very short period of time, mind you — of the NBA remaining mostly mum concerning the controversy surrounding the league’s bending to the will of Chinese money, CNN reporter Christina Macfarlane’s question to Houston Rockets star players James Harden and Russell Westbrook was denied by an NBA spokesperson while at a press conference in Japan.
“The NBA has always been a league that prides itself on its players and coaches being able to speak out openly about political and social affairs. I just wonder after the events of this week, and the fallout we’ve seen, whether you would both feel differently about speaking out in that way in the future?” Macfarlane asked.
When the NBA spokesperson told Macfarlane that the players would be answering “basketball questions only,” the reporter replied by saying that her question was completely “legitimate” since it only happened in the past week.
That’s when the NBA spokesperson changed her strategy from the “basketball questions only” tactic to telling Macfarlane that her question had already been answered.
“It’s a question that’s already been answered,” the spokesperson said.
“This particular question has not been answered,” Macfarlane responded.
Both Harden and Westbrook sat there all too happy not to answer Macfarlane’s question.
Here's video of the exchange:
And here I thought, with all their typical bravado about saying whatever they want, that these athletes had backbones. It was a simple question, but the money the NBA receives from China is apparently doing the talking.
The NBA and China had previously agree to a five-year deal to stream games in China that’s reportedly worth $1.5 billion to the NBA over the course of the deal.
All of this conflict comes following a now-deleted tweet from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey that showed support for protesters in Hong Kong. China subsequently banned, at least, NBA preseason games from being streamed to fans in China.
Almost immediately after the story of Morey’s tweet and China’s outrage broke, Harden profusely apologized to communist China on behalf of himself, Westbrook and the rest of the Rockets organization.
“We apologize. You know, we love China. We love playing there," Harden said, according to ESPN. "For both of us individually, we go there once or twice a year. They show us the most support and love.”
Then maybe you should exclusively play in China.
The NBA did release a statement on Tuesday defending the free speech of its employees, but it seems to have been all window dressing judging by this exchange.
I understand that the NBA probably doesn’t want its players speaking on the subject, so Harden and Westbrook were probably obeying the orders of their “governors.” But, doesn’t that just feed into how China operates as an oppressive communist regime?