A recent report again demonstrates how the Chinese regime influences the silence of athletes by putting them under threat of being shut out of the huge Chinese market.
A Thursday, April 14, an ESPN report detailed the consequences to the NBA-China business relationship. A tweet in which former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey supported the struggle of Hong Kongers to maintain their freedom in the face of the Chinese regime’s imposition of security law on the island incensed the Chinese regime.
Morey’s tweet, posted just as the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets were about to play a preseason game in China, drew the ire of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the displeasure of some NBA members, according to the report.
Although Morey later deleted the tweet and issued a statement of apology, the repercussions had already taken flight in the communist country:
“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,” Morey wrote.
According to the report, the NBA said in an initial statement that Morey’s tweet had “deeply offended” fans in China and called it “regrettable.”
Morey had also heard from some NBA owners that Joe Tsai, vice chairman of Alibaba and owner of the Nets, was pushing to get him fired to appease the Chinese. But this was reportedly denied by Tsai.
“Tsai personifies the compromises embedded in the NBA-China relationship, which brings in billions of dollars but requires the league to do business with an authoritarian government and look past the kind of social justice issues it is fighting at home,” ESPN wrote in the report.
Meanwhile, Lakers star LeBron James was working on the movie “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and, according to ESPN, was “infuriated” by Morey’s tweet, which he called “uninformed.” According to The Hollywood Reporter, James’ film was never released in China.
“I’m not here to judge how the league handled the situation. I just think that 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,” James said.
“We all see what that did, not only did for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well. Sometimes you have to think through the things that you say that may cause harm not only for yourself but for the majority of people. I think that’s just a prime example of that.”
Morey had bipartisan support in the United States. A letter signed by, among others, Sen. Ted Cruz, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, said it was “outrageous that the NBA has caved to the Chinese regime’s demands for repentance.”
Morey stayed with the Rockets for one more year before joining the Sixers.
In contrast, Enes Kanter Freedom, the former Boston Celtics star player, has actively denounced the CCP’s human rights violations.
Through social media and by wearing sneakers during NBA games with each of the human rights violations perpetrated by the Chinese regime, Kanter attempted to raise awareness and visibility of the systematic genocide occurring in China against minorities such as Uighurs, Tibetans, and practitioners of the Falun Gong spiritual discipline.
As previously reported by The BL, during an interview with CNN, the player claimed that two NBA officials pressured him not to wear his “Free Tibet” sneakers before a game and then hinted that they might suspend him.
Following his departure from the NBA, the player stated that it was to appease the Chinese regime that they did not renew his contract.