NBA and ESPN Continue to React Poorly to China Controversy
The NBA continues to be embroiled in controversy sparked by Houston Rockets General Manager, Daryl Morey, tweeting his support for Hong Kong protesters. After the offending tweet, Morey has been condemned by everyone from his own team’s owner to the Chinese government. The NBA itself has put out at least 3 statements, each of which offer varying amounts of support to Morey’s right to free speech while also apologizing to all their “friends” in China.
Many commentators are rightly pointing out that the NBA, a league that considers itself a leader in “social justice” and allowing players and coaches to speak their mind on a number of liberal-friendly issues, is now kowtowing to China and ignoring major human right abuses. China is the NBA’s second biggest market and represents billions of dollars in revenue for the league, the teams and the players.
.@WhitlockJason calls out the NBA for not being real about their controversy with China— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) October 8, 2019
"Cut it out NBA, Adam Silver, Steve Kerr. You're not social justice activists. You're business people because when China tells you to shut the hell up, everybody shuts the hell up." pic.twitter.com/XsJd13by35
As one of the NBA’s largest business partners, the sports network ESPN has an obligation to cover this massive global incident. However, the left-leaning network has tried to distance itself from politics recently following high-profile incidents such as firing conservatives like Britt McHenry, while not firing Jemele Hill who tweeted that President Trump was “racist” and a “white supremacist”.
Earlier in the week, the sports network put out an internal memo that mandated that their hosts stick to sports while discussing the topic. The memo specifically forbade anchors and commentators from commenting on the political situation between Hong Kong and China.
An ESPN exec sent a memo to staffers mandating that coverage of the Morey/China story focus on basketball and avoid political discussions about China and Hong Kong https://t.co/kuXIiQwznh— Max Tani (@maxwelltani) October 8, 2019
In addition to the memo, an ESPN anchor cut off talking head Stephen A. Smith on his show First Take this morning when he waded into politics. Smith interestingly made the comparison between the political issues in China and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was quickly interrupted by the host who awkwardly threw the segment to commercial.