What is wrong with the NBA?

Sport and politics. Money and sport. Politics and money. As much as people tend to argue, these three things can't exist without one another. The recent events between NBA and China gave us refreshing reminder about that. And it sucks. Here's why.

For those who don't follow the issue at hand- long story short. Houston Rockets General Manager Mr. Daryl Morey in one tweet showed his support to Hong Kong protesters by tweeting this:

Daryl Morey shows support to Hong Kong

Not a big deal, right? Not exactly. This tweet caused the largest shitstorm in the history of NBA which has resulted in enormous financial loss, because China is suspending all business operations with the league. Statistically there were more than 600M people who watched some of NBA games in the last season and revenue from Chinese market amounted 10% from NBA's total revenue.

As fucked up as it is, the next steps of NBA caused even larger surprise for everyone. NBA has always represented freedom of speech and therefore the initial statement left many fans in wtf? motion. Here it is:

NBA initial statement about Morey's tweet.

Luckily their PR department realised the mistake soon enough and on the next day released another statement:

Current position of the NBA is that they will not apologize for Mr. Morey's tweet to China, as they support individuals rights to express their opinion, however, Mr. Silver (Commissioner of the NBA) will continue to work with China in order to restore previous business relationships — read — beg to almighty Communist Party of China to take them (NBA) back and to renew broadcasting agreements before the regular season of the NBA begins. In my humble opinion this is fucked up.

While most of the athletes supported Mr. Morey or at least didn't publicly criticise him, Mr. LeBron Raymone James Sr. (LeBron) said that Mr. Morey was uneducated about this sensitive issue and that timing was not right. More about that here:

Obviously this caused another havoc in social media. The man, the myth, the legend LeBron taking China's side. Really? The dude who has his own clothing line under Nike with “More than an Athlete” — which was launched right after he was told to “shut up and dribble” by some random Fox News lady (I won't even google her name). The dude who tweeted on Martin Luther King day this famous tweet:

LeBron tweet: Injustice Anywhere Is a threat to justice everywhere

I respect LeBron for all his achievements in sports and especially for everything he has done for his community outside the sports. He has created this image of himself as a role model for every young boy who has ever held a basketball in his hand. So, is it fair to call him sellout at the moment when he chooses to support China and calls Mr. Morey uneducated? Sure it is. Suddenly so many things he claims to be standing behind makes no sense. He has put himself in to a horrible situation. Every time in the future when he will speak about police brutality in US, criticise Trump, or make any other political statement it will look hypocritical. Like, hey Bron, you can speak your mind here, but you can't be open about what's happening in China? His “More than an Athlete” clothing line looks simply foolish now. Even the argument itself about the timing was bad. Do you really need to make money in country where you are not safe physically? (His own words from the video). What would happen if NBA decides to make business with Turkey — would you ship Enes Kanter as a signing bonus there?

Oh, and one more thing about LBJ and China. It would be a pity if China would ban Space Jam 2 from which LBJ is entitled to receive significant % from sales and which should air on 2021. So better (for LBJ) to fix things up with China A$AP.

Really though?

Obviously everyone knows what kind of political system is in China. And obviously everyone in NBA was hoping that no one will give a shit about it, because… well 10 % of the revenue. From my position, I would say that NBA shouldn't be in bed with country which banned Vinnie the Pooh because someone said that it looks similar to their political leader. Seriously, this happened. Also, you shouldn't be in bed with someone who blocks Southpark for making fun that Vinnie the Pooh is banned in China. It all sounds crazy. But hey, these are freaking 10 % from the revenue.

It just makes you wonder what lengths are people willing to go in order to make money. You can close your eyes to all the bad stuff and speak about injustice only in US or other Western countries where you are completely safe and your business interests won't suffer, but don't you dare to do it in China.

Law and political science. Corporate management consultant and founder at Gate to Baltics. I write about politics, law, corporate management and sport.