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Volume 26 No. 109
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Critics Call Out NBA's Hypocrisy As China Issue Continues To Evolve

The "ongoing tensions" between the NBA and China in the wake of Rockets GM Daryl Morey supporting Hong Kong protesters on Twitter "open up the league to charges of hypocrisy on questions of free speech," according to Daniel Arkin of NBC NEWS (10/7). The NBA moved its '17 All-Star Game from Charlotte due to North Carolina's controversial "bathroom bill," and in L.A., Dan Woike writes that felt like a "watershed moment." A pro sports league was "coming to the aid of a marginalized group and helping effect change." However, three years later, that move is "being thrown back as an example of the NBA's hypocrisy" (L.A. TIMES, 10/8). In N.Y., Rich Lowry writes the China issue "exposes the league's gutless hypocrisy." So long as social activism is "costless," the NBA is "all about its values." But as "soon as there is any price, the league is willing to ¬≠salute smartly at the dictates of one of the most cynical, self-interested regimes on Earth" (N.Y. POST, 10/8). Ray Ratto in a special to DEADSPIN wrote the NBA has "made great amounts of hay from being the forward-thinking and progressive league." However, moving forward it comes with the "now-obvious asterisk of 'as long as we don't lose any money we can't get back on the deal'" (DEADSPIN.com, 10/7). ROLLING STONE's Jamil Smith wrote the NBA "could have stood up for Morey, for decency, and for the protesters and their human rights. ... But they folded all too readily, all too eager to hold onto the dollars that they glean from the Communist nation" (ROLLINGSTONE.com, 10/7).

NBA'S INCONSISTENCY LAMBASTED: In N.Y., Bari Weiss writes under the header, "The World's Wokest Sports League Bows To China." The "woke" designation is a "reputation -- and a brand -- that the league has cultivated." The NBA wants its players and employees speaking out "unless the subject of that political speech is the Chinese Communist Party." On that subject, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league "are shamefully silent" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8). In Philadelphia, Mike Sielski writes the NBA's "power people have branded themselves as seekers of social justice." But "now more than ever, that stance seems little more than artifice, a path of least resistance that bestows nothing but praise on whoever takes it" (PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER, 10/8). In N.Y., Michael Powell writes the NBA has been "on woke roll these past few years," but the China situation is a "head-on collision with not-so-woke global politics and finances." Silver and his marketing team have "crumpled into a fetal position" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8). In DC, Alyssa Rosenberg writes the situation has been a "disgraceful and abject spectacle by a league that is supposed to be one of the most powerful cultural forces on the planet" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/8). In San Diego, Mark Zeigler writes the NBA "sold out, caved" and "kowtowed" to China. When "money talked," the NBA "listened" (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 10/8). In Chicago, Eric Zorn: "The NBA bent its knee, wrung its hands and ... is now groveling because one of its executives expressed support for democracy" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 10/8).

EDITORIAL OPINION: A WASHINGTON POST editorial states China is "attempting to enforce its version of the truth all around the world." Some of its targets "don't have the wherewithal to stand up to this assault -- which is why the NBA's cravenness is so damaging." With all its "financial muscle, its enormous popularity and its moral preening, if the NBA can cave so easily, who will resist the censorship of the Communist dictators?" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/8). A N.Y. TIMES editorial states NBA owners "nearly tripped over themselves in their haste to abjure" Morey's remarks. The NBA, like "many large American businesses, is besotted by the opportunity to make money in China's expanding market." The league "once again made clear it is willing to obey China's rules to preserve that chance" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/8). A CHICAGO SUN-TIMES editorial states the Rockets "hung Morey out to dry" and the league "didn't do much better by him." China is a "big player in the business of basketball and the world economy." But some things "matter more than the bottom line" (CHICAGO SUN-TIMES, 10/8). A CHARLOTTE OBSERVER editorial cartoon hits on the NBA's relationship with China (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 10/8).

NBA FOLLOWING LEAD OF BIG COMPANIES: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Ben Cohen writes this "battle at the crossroads of international commerce is not unique to the NBA," but it is the "most prominent example of China's gusher of money buying strategic influence and backing U.S. companies into a decision between their principles and billions of dollars" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/8). In L.A., Brian Boyle writes the NBA "talks a big game about so-called basketball diplomacy," though it is "still a business, not a nonprofit looking to spread democracy." Expecting the league to "act more like the latter than the former is silly and naive" (L.A. TIMES, 10/8). ESPN's Pablo Torre: "We need to stop expecting moral leadership from for-profit businesses like the NBA" ("High Noon," ESPN2, 10/7). In DC, Sally Jenkins writes, "You want to be angry at the NBA for cowering in the face of China's authoritarian regime? ... Fine. Good for you." Jenkins: "But understand the NBA is only imitating that smooth move patented by dozens of other fine, flag-waving American corporations in their dealings with China" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/8). In Toronto, Bruce Arthur writes the system is "not set up for corporate money to choose principle, so the NBA took a side here." The league chooses principle "until the money's too good not to." Money "eventually colonizes everything," and Morey's tweet "threatened billions of dollars" (TORONTO STAR, 10/8). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote like "pretty much every business on Earth, the league wants China's money." So like "pretty much every other American business, it's willing to have one set of rules for, say, North Carolina ... and another for China" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/7).