The NBA Cowers to Authoritarianism

The Ringer has reported that the Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey is currently in hot water after tweeting support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The since-deleted tweet shared an image that stated: “ Fight Freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” 

The tweet unsurprisingly caused widespread condemnation in China. The Chinese Basketball Association whose chair is Rocket legend, Yao Ming, has suspended cooperation with the Rockets indefinitely. 

Rockets Owner Tilman Fertitta distanced himself and the team from Morey with the following statement:

On Sunday night, Morey issued a clarifying statement after “hearing and considering other perspectives.”

On Sunday, the NBA also released a criticizing response to Morey’s tweet:

Morey used his First Amendment rights to support a group of people facing oppression at the hands of an authoritarian regime — and now his American boss might fire him. 

Even Rick Pitino has displayed a higher moral compass than the NBA regarding this controversy:

Not only is China preventing citizens of Hong Kong from participating in democratic systems, but they are also committing human rights violations against Muslims in the Xinjiang region. The country is currently keeping millions of Uighur Muslims in concentration camps, essentially denouncing Islam and buying into the Chinese Communist Party’s propoaganda machine.

After widespread condemnation of the NBA’s initial statement Silver issued a statement backtracking and defending free speech saying “the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees, and team owners say or will not say on these issues.”

This was the best statement Adam Silver could possibly make after an initially infuriating response from the Association and the league executives who basically threw Morey under the bus. 

But it appears that the same first amendment rights that Silver said he supported for his employees don’t apply to fans and journalists at NBA events.

A CNN reporter asked Rockets superstars James Harden about Russell Westbrook about the ongoing controvery involving China and the NBA but was quickly shut down and told “we’re taking basketball questions only.

This wasn’t the only form of the censorship that NBA demonstrated this week. Fans at a Washington Wizards preseason game were wearing free Hong Kong shirts and holding up signs saying “Google Uyghurs.” Their signs were confiscated because the security guard said they were political.

Right when I thought Adam Silver was starting to move in the right direction after the NBA’s initial statement the league goes into full on censoreship mode. Preventing journalists from asking certain questions and stealing fans signs is not only an incredidly weak move it’s also an authoritarian move.

The NBA is more concerned with not hurting China’s feelings then letting their audience express themselves and ask the questions that people need to hear. America is by no means a perfect country and our freedom of speech allows us to express that. But China on the other hand uses censorship to try and convince people that there’s nothing wrong going on there. 

It’s a sad day when the league you think is concerned about their players being more then athletes cowers to a repressive authoritarian regime. 

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