US politicians’ double standards pollute NBA: Chinese observers

By Deng Xiaoci and Lu Wenao Source: Global Times Published: 2020/7/13 20:03:40

NBA superstar LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers shows his basketball skills during his China tour in Shanghai in 2018. Photo: IC

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has once again come under fire in the US, as Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has challenged the league's political position, which he said is biased in favor of China and corporate profits in the Chinese market.

He also questioned the NBA's decision to restrict messages that players can wear on their jerseys while censoring criticism of the Communist Party of China. 

Answering a statement Hawley planned to send to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, titled "Senator Hawley Blasts NBA for Kowtowing to Beijing & Refusing to Support US Military and Law Enforcement," ESPN's NBA reporter and league coverage front Adrian Wojnarowski said simply "F*** you." The "profane" email resulted in his unpaid and indefinite suspension from ESPN, media reported. 

US sports media organizations have said that the NBA and its players' association agreed on a list of 29 social justice slogans to display on players' jerseys. Such social messages approved included "Black Lives Matter (BLM)," "I Can't Breathe" and "Anti-Racist" -- mainly ones that are closely connected to the ongoing social movement in the US. 

It is also worth noting that not every NBA player is a fan of having slogans on jerseys. According to a Yahoo Sports report on Sunday, Los Angeles Lakers star Lebron James said that he would just keep his name "James" above his number rather than carrying any slogan. 

"I don't need to have something on the back of the jersey for people to understand my mission and what I'm about," James was quoted as saying by ESPN on the issue.

James also voiced support for Wojnarowski over the suspension by writing "#FreeWOJ" on Twitter. The post was followed by waves of criticism, with many who uphold political correctness calling him "China Bron," and leaving comments saying "keep bending the knee to China."

Some US netizens have questioned why anti-China slogans and phrases such as "Free Hong Kong" were missing from the list. Hawley's blasts on the NBA political stance heeled such voices. 

Su Qun, the editor-in-chief of the Basketball Pioneer newspaper and one of China's best-known basketball commentators, said Hawley's drastically different stances on endorsing Hong Kong riots in China while supporting US law enforcement brutality against the BLM movement in the US showed his double standards and those of US politicians.

"With the NBA becoming a tool of politics since the Daryl Morey incident last year, to the ongoing BLM social movement, the career of a marquee basketball reporter like Wojnarowski would also face great threats," Su told the Global Times on Monday.

Wojnarowski's short yet powerful tweet showed his anger over a situation where, under such bad financial circumstances, US politicians are still neglecting the health and survival of the players, coaches and the industry, and are only using the league as a political instrument to spread anti-China sentiment, Su noted.

Wang Dazhao, a prominent Beijing-based sports commentator, said the US politicians' anti-China stances are only self-centered ideas, but they are not for the good of the NBA.

"It's undeniable that politics is affecting the sports world but those politicians are pursuing their personal interests rather than acting for the benefit of all," Wang told the Global Times. "There are plenty of domestic issues that US politicians need to address."

The NBA, with its unsolved problems with China that were ignited by the Houston Rockets' general manager's tweet in support of Hong Kong rioters in October 2019, is experiencing the worst adversity in its history, Su said. Some NBA franchise bosses have revealed that no NBA team would make profits this year or next, and the only differences among teams will be the scale of losses, US media reported. 

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said last month that he hoped the NBA could find "mutual respect" with China over the Hong Kong row, but he has also faced overwhelming criticism domestically. 

A Chinese basketball insider, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Global Times that Silver should also "walk the walk and not just talk the talk" to solve the standoff. 

Wang noted that forcing sports to take a certain political stance would only have the opposite effect.

He said that many Chinese children fall in love with basketball due to the strong presence of the NBA in China, and if US politicians continue to politicize sports, the loss of the NBA in China will not be only in terms of market matters. 


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