The National Basketball Association would like you to know that it is extremely woke and conscientious. During the anthem wars, the league’s commissioner, Adam Silver, preened publicly about free speech and expression being “a core set of American values” to which the league was firmly committed. After a viral firestorm involving transgender people and bathrooms in North Carolina, in which the state’s legislature passed a controversial law, the NBA ostentatiously announced its retaliatory decision to yank its all star game out of Charlotte. Silver also jettisoned the word “owner” to describe the people who, well, own NBA franchises, after certain political correctness enforcers decided the term represented a problematic echo of slavery-era dynamics. That comparison fails on several levels, but the demanded rhetorical sanitizing occurred anyway.
In a critical Daily Beast column published last year, one observer accused the NBA of embracing a “fake woke” business model, arguing the league’s social justice posturing was a calculated financial decision, as opposed to a genuine nod to morals or conscience. “Commissioner Adam Silver and a passel of NBA officials clearly took a gander at the demographics and churned through piles of market research before coming to the painfully obvious conclusion that a gauzy, snackable form of leftism, one that would broadly appeal to its customer base, was very much in the NBA’s best financial interests,” the piece noted. In light of new developments, that take is looking spot on. The league’s phony wokeness does not extend to lifting a finger in any way, shape, or form that could potentially offend the Chinese government — thus imperiling a vast, emerging and lucrative market of fans.
That’s not an exaggeration. When Houston Rockets’ General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, all hell broke loose. Chinese sponsors cut ties with the organization, as the regime in Beijing reacted furiously (in keeping with its pattern of anti-speech intimidation and punishment). Reports began to circulate that Morey might be in danger of losing his job; he quickly posted a series of mealy-mouthed tweets to ‘clarify’ his position and emphasize that his pro-democracy views “in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.” Both the Rockets’ owner — er, ‘governor’ — and the NBA made that reality perfectly obvious with their own pathetic missives:
NEW: the NBA has released a statement on Daryl Morey: pic.twitter.com/FOI79W31b1
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) October 7, 2019
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