The NBA is Censoring Criticism of the Chinese Government—And it’s Entirely Un-American
The “NBA Cares” about human rights—unless money is involved, of course. While civil unrest between the Chinese government and Hong Kong protesters have worsened, China’s anti-protest influence in the West has been growing. The NBA recently censored a tweet by a Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, that showed support for Hong Kong’s protesters. The tweet in question said, “Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong.” This form of speech, of course, did not sit well with Chinese pro basketball officials. A Chinese consulate urged the Houston Rockets to “correct the error,” and the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) has voiced its displeasure with the comment. In addition, the CBA cut its ties with the Houston Rockets, threatening business with a country with 1.4 billion people. As a result, the NBA has shamefully cowered away, removing and apologizing for the tweet in an effort to appease the Chinese communists. After all, they risk losing millions of dollars in potential profits by not doing business with them. Yet, this begs the question: so what?
This is not the first time a controversy has developed regarding Western censorship of ideas critical of China. A Mariott employee was once fired for using an account associated with the company to like a Twitter post of a Tibetan separatist group. Nearly six months ago, Gap apologized to China for producing a China T-shirt that didn’t include Taiwan, noting that they “respect China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” What the NBA has done regarding free speech is, however, particularly egregious. It is sometimes said that one cannot put a price on human life. However, though citizens in Hong Kong have been more than ever in need of help, the NBA has disregarded and censored support for them in an attempt to secure their future profits from China. These actions speak volumes of their greed and spinelessness. For a corporation that has, through the program “NBA Cares,” voiced their mission to address social issues around the world, this act of censorship is textbook hypocrisy.
It is a well-known fact that the First Amendment does not prevent private businesses like the NBA from suppressing free speech as they please. However, that does not diminish their moral obligation to uphold relevant and basic, yet crucial, American values: liberty and freedom of speech. The NBA has disregarded both in this case. They are not a political organization, but the human rights issues in China go beyond mere “politics.” Civil issues within China are not limited to just police brutality and immoral legislation. It also includes legal discrimination against Uighur Muslims and the literal harvesting of their organs. Despite all of these factors, it has been made abundantly clear that the NBA has made their choice: the prioritization of profits over human rights. It is ironic that a company whose success is based partly on many of the freedoms we as Americans enjoy today should turn their backs to such injustices.