NBA Won't Be "Woke" on China

NBA Won't Be "Woke" on China

The National Basketball Association infamously has aligned itself as a "woke" organization, meaning they are alert and outspoken against "injustice" in all it's politically correct forms. At least that's been their reputation with those who populate social media. But as The Guardian pointed out this week, "the league is only woke when it doesn't cost money."

Case in point, on Washington Watch (Tuesday), I spoke with radio talk show host and best-selling author Todd Starnes about the NBA's recent flip-flop in defending pro-democracy freedom demonstrators in Hong Kong who are facing the wrath of China at literal gun point.

"The controversy started when the Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, tweeted his support for protesters in Hong Kong, where police have used live ammunition on civilians after months of demonstrations. Morey deleted the tweet shortly afterwards and the NBA and the Rockets distanced themselves from his statement. The NBA said it was 'regrettable' that the tweet had caused offence in China, and the Rockets said Morey's views did not represent those of the team," The Guardiannoted.

Why the switch?

Following an actual pro-democracy message -- killed quickly -- China's government run television network cancelled the NBA broadcasts. As the Wall Street Journal reported, it didn't stop there: "The escalation in tensions threatened to plunge the NBA's carefully cultivated China franchise into deeper crisis, with more merchants halting sales of NBA merchandise, many Chinese celebrities pulling out of an NBA event in Shanghai and a major Chinese sponsor yanking its endorsement of the games. Tickets from the designated online agent for Thursday's Shanghai game became unavailable."

As soon as China wanted to pull the plug, the NBA began to grovel. This suggests to me that for the NBA, this is not about morals or what's right and wrong. It's about money. Its bottom line is money.

Starnes agreed: "For a league that prides itself in being 'woke,' the NBA is really asleep at the wheel here." And their "sheer hypocrisy" is on full display when you look at "how the NBA treated the great state of North Carolina and how they're dealing with the Chinese."

You have to wonder if the pro-Democracy demonstrators had met in North Carolina bathrooms if the NBA might have been more supportive.

In 2017, the NBA moved its All-Star Game to New Orleans, Louisiana, from Charlotte, North Carolina, after that state said that men and women should have privacy in bathrooms. Ironically, the policy isn't really different in my home state of Louisiana.

Like North Carolina, Louisiana is one of 32 states in the U.S. that does not force private businesses to allow men in women's showers, locker rooms, and restrooms. On the other hand, in New Orleans -- the same as in Charlotte -- the NBA will be free to divide the restrooms at its own event on the basis of self-professed "gender identity" instead of objective biological sex, if it wishes to do so. Only politics -- not the well-being of transgender persons or anyone else -- motivated this disruptive and punitive move.

Starnes noted that the NBA's courage is paper thin.

"They can champion, you know, issues like who uses what bathroom in the name of social justice. But they're afraid to stand up against China for those that are actually working for true freedom," he said.

As chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, I've seen the reports of China's human rights violations including concentration camps, organ harvesting and violence against people of faith of all beliefs, and sadly it's not just the NBA that is staying silent because money can be made in China.

Hollywood executives are allowing Chinese censors to approve its movie scripts. Hollywood is producing movies based upon what the Chinese Communist Party will allow. And then, of course, we have businesses, U.S. businesses, top fortune 500 firms that are operating in China and facilitating the repression of people. In fact, just yesterday the Trump administration "blacklisted" eight Chinese companies that "have been implicated in human rights violations and abuses in the implementation of China's campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, Kazakhs, and other members of Muslim minority groups in the XUAR," a notice from the Commerce Department said. The blacklisting prohibits U.S. firms from legally doing business with the companies.

Sadly, the NBA is in league with a lot of corporations who have put money and access to China's controlled marketplace over American ideals and the concern for those suffering under Communist rule.