Last week the Houston Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted an image that said “Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong” in support of ongoing, pro-democracy protests happening in the Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China.
The Authoritarian Chinese first responded by cutting all ties to the Rockets, including a ban of the Houston deal from a multi-million dollar television deal. Shortly thereafter a number of Chinese firms cut all ties with the league.
The development was decidedly bad for the NBA, which considers China to be its number one growth market, worth billions.
At first NBA Commissioner Adam Silverman tried to distance the league from Morey. But after a couple days of terrible press, he released an updated statement yesterday.
“It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences,” Silver said. “However, 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. We simply could not operate that way.”
In a carefully crafted comment that avoids any and all criticism of oppressive, authoritarian regimes, Silverman added “Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA - and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values…”
To which a number of celebrities and politicians said, “pffft.”
We understand that siren call of Chinese markets, but we think the NBA missed their shot to stand tall for human rights.