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Volume 27 No. 4
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NBA Unwilling To Meet China's Request For An Apology Over Tweet

The NBA has some leverage in this situation, but has so far been careful with its statements on the matter
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The NBA has some leverage in this situation, but has so far been careful with its statements on the matter
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
The NBA has some leverage in this situation, but has so far been careful with its statements on the matter
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

China wants an apology in its "standoff with the NBA" brought on by Daryl Morey's tweet, but so far that is the "one concession the league has been unwilling to make," according to Dou, Areddy & Cohen of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. That is partly because the NBA has an "unusual amount of leverage, and it is beaming Beijing's muscular tactics into the living rooms of Americans who otherwise pay little attention to geopolitics." It also is because the NBA "quickly realized it couldn't capitulate." The league's first attempt to address the controversy "backfired in both the U.S. and China." But what followed was a "defiant refusal by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to apologize that stood in direct opposition to the playbook China demands from companies or individuals finding themselves in its crosshairs" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/10). The AP's Tim Reynolds noted some experts are "wondering if anything other than an apology" from Silver will "mend this fence, especially with the Chinese indicating that is what they want." Silver has "chosen his words carefully to this point." He said that the league is "apologetic over the disharmony caused by Morey's tweet but stopped well short of apologizing for the tweet itself" (AP, 10/9). The Wall Street Journal's Jonathan Cheng said China is not "in the mood to broker any sort of compromise, so you've either got to go all in or you've got to get out of the country." CNBC's Joe Kernen: "Maybe the NBA is the one entity that has some sway over China because it's so important" ("Squawk Box," CNBC, 10/10).

FINDING HIS FOOTING: In DC, Jerry Brewer writes Silver has "found the proper tone in reacting to China, which has taken its outrage to ludicrous levels." The NBA "showed remorse; China wants Silver to punish Morey in a manner that scares the league's mouth shut." However, that is "not going to happen." When "pressed like never before, Silver didn't budge on any of the NBA's core values." It is "fair to criticize him for taking some time to get it right, but he has banked more than enough equity to be pardoned" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/10). YAHOO SPORTS' Dan Wetzel wrote "no one is quite certain what will happen next" with this controversy. The NBA "knows it can't publicly fold to the Chinese without a backlash elsewhere," especially in the U.S. However, China "keeps pushing" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/9). USA TODAY's Zillgitt & Medina write Silver is in a "difficult position, trying to placate mainland China, which wants Morey fired, and championing U.S. and NBA values, such as free speech" (USA TODAY, 10/10).

WALKING A FINE LINE: In N.Y., Marc Stein writes every company that "boasts purchasing power, everywhere in the world, will flex that muscle upon vendors." Every vendor, everywhere in the world, will "eventually yield to its biggest customers." The "resulting challenge for Silver's league -- more so than for most American businesses, because of its social footprint and the tremendous visibility of its stars -- is how to protect those financial interests without trampling on what Silver on Monday termed 'values that have been part of this league from its earliest days'" (N.Y. TIMES, 10/9). Also in N.Y., Brian Lewis writes the NBA has "earned a reputation for fostering free speech among its employees, and is viewed as the most woke of the U.S. leagues." But it is "finding out that free speech doesn't mean consequence-free" (N.Y. POST, 10/10). A DALLAS MORNING NEWS editorial wrote under the header, "Memo To NBA: Don't Quit On Freedom" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 10/9).

NO CREDIT GIVEN: In N.Y., Miranda Devine writes America's "most politically correct sport can't suddenly pretend to be apolitical and morally neutral when it comes to standing up for actual human rights in Hong Kong." The NBA's "kowtowing to China's bullying is proof, if you ever needed it, that woke capitalism is a sick con job." It is the "opposite of 'standing for something'" (N.Y. POST, 10/10). A ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH editorial writes under the header, "NBA Demonstrates To Oppressed People Everywhere How Not To Take A Stand." The editorial: "Word has it Silver and his NBA cohorts are collaborating on a new book: 'It's How We Play The Game: Build A League. Don't Take a Stand. Bow in deference" (ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, 10/10).