OPINION / VIEWPOINT
NBA manager, politicians abuse free speech to cross China’s bottom line on violence
Published: Oct 14, 2019 08:08 PM

Photo: IC



Eight US lawmakers including Senators Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Wednesday released a letter urging NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to suspend NBA activities in China. NBA's and Houston Rockets' recent statements apologizing for Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey's tweet in support of Hong Kong's rioters was too much of a concession for the elite in Washington who seek to use the cherished sport of basketball to advance a new cold war on China. 

Some US commentators are admonishing the NBA for "caving" in to China's supposed lack of freedom of speech. First, there is free speech in China, as evident from Chinese people's awareness of Morey's pro-separatist comments. Second, freedom of speech and expression is regulated in every country, including the US. However, the issue at hand is not free speech, but foreign intervention. 

The NBA's second-largest market is China, where it rakes in at least $500 million in annual revenue. In July, Tencent reached a five-year $1.5 billion deal, making it the NBA's exclusive digital partner in China. However, US leaders expect it to be fine when NBA managers endorse separatist violence and riots stoked by foreign hands. Hong Kong has been torn apart by rioters. Civilians have been assaulted, pro-mainland Hong Kong citizens have been attacked, stores have been ransacked and subway stations destroyed by arsonists and rioters. 

Free speech does not mean that speech is free of consequence. If one believes in free speech, it should be understood that public figures and celebrities need to exercise that freedom with responsibility. US public figures such as Morey and Cruz should understand the consequences of taking a stand on an internal issue of another country.

Imagine their response if a CBA manager endorsed environmentalist protests in Hawaii, unions on strike in Detroit, or activists resisting racism in Texas. These examples, however, are not even equal as Hong Kong's separatist riots pose a bigger danger to China's public safety and unity.

In the West, free speech is often used as an excuse to sow division and incite riots; this could lead to the rise of fascist tendencies. 

Meanwhile, independent voices are censored, such as those voicing solidarity with the citizens in Hong Kong resisting foreign intervention.

Presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren echoed Morey's incendiary sentiment in a tweet saying Americans should "be speaking out in support of those protesting for their rights." No right in Hong Kong is repressed. The real issue is Hong Kong rioters abusing their freedom by taking away civilians' freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and freedom to work and study without harassment.  

When asked during a press conference on Thursday if human rights ever come up during his trips to China , Warriors coach Steve Kerr said, "No - nor has (America's) record of human rights abuses come up either. People in China didn't ask me about people owning AR-15s and mowing each other down in a mall." No country has the gold standard on human rights. The US should solve its own problems and not export them to China.

Sports has historically built bridges between our societies. The CBA, WCBA, NBA, and WNBA have strengthened links between Chinese and American basketball lovers. Permanent Chinese resident Stephon Marbury, a former point guard for the Knicks and the Beijing Ducks, has demonstrated the potential of such cultural exchange. Yao Ming and Zhou Qi, both former CBA players, have provided the Houston Rockets with some of the team's best performances. Americans must stand with Rockets point guard James Harden; "We love China."

The author is a journalist who has worked for RT, Mintpress News, and Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
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