Greed between the Lines of NBA's Politics

January 18, 2022

Two days ago, most people had never heard of Chamath Palihapitiya. Now, the part-owner of the Golden State Warriors is all over social media, representing everything Americans have come to despise about the NBA -- its blatant hypocrisy, its spoiled detachment, and heartless opportunism. The billionaire venture capitalist has done us one favor, though. He admits it. When Palihapitiya says he doesn't give a flying flip about China's persecuted, we believe him. And we also realize -- in a league of phony social justice crusaders -- he's not alone.

The most shocking thing about Palihapitiya's interview on the "All-In" podcast wasn't his indifference toward human suffering. It was his brutal honesty about it. "Nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs, okay?" Palihapitiya told co-host Jason Calacanis. "You bring it up because you care, and I think it's nice that you care. The rest of us don't care," he said bluntly. "And I'm sorry if that's a hard truth to hear," he went on, "but every time I say that I care about the Uyghurs, I'm really just lying..." "That's disappointing" was all a stunned Calacanis could reply. Look, the former Facebook executive went on, "I'm just telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line."

Which line, the listener is left to wonder? His bottom line? That is, after all, the only thing the NBA seems to care about. While its players walk around in "Justice Now" jerseys and empty "We Are One" slogans, the league is busy charming China, one of the world's biggest proponents of human slavery. The league moralizes from America's warm cocoon -- while simultaneously raking in the dollars from a communist regime running the largest torture network since the 1930s. Palihapitiya, like so many of the league's spoiled members, has the luxury of indifference because he has a convenience millions of Uyghurs do not: freedom.

"I care about climate change," Palihapitiya wanted Calacanis to know. "I care about America's crippling and decrepit health care infrastructure. But if you ask me do I care about a segment of a class of people in another country? Not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us." What he can't see through his naïve narrowmindedness is that this isn't just about the Uyghurs. It's about protecting minorities and letting people be who they are -- two things the woke NBA claims to care so much about. Their stories represent the real oppression. The real injustice. The real crisis of human dignity. And the more the woke crowd perpetuates this selfish idea that we can only care about human rights here at home, the less credibility America will have to fight it anywhere.

NBA player Enes Kanter, who's been openly critical about the league's cozy arrangement with China, was furious by Palihapitiya's comments, posting, "When the NBA says we stand for justice, don't forget there are those who sell their soul for money and business like @chamath... When genocides happen, it is people like this that let it happen. Shame!" Elected officials were uniquely outraged, especially after working for months to crack down on Xinjiang's forced labor. "NBA takes bold stance: Slavery doesn't matter. Concentration camps don't matter. Torture and murder [don't] matter. 'We don't care,'" Ted Cruz blasted back. "ALL that matters to them is more $$ from the [Chinese Communist Party] so [the NBA] can get even richer."

Even the Warriors tried to distance themselves from Palihapitiya after the story exploded. In an unusually dismissive statement, the team wrote, "As a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions with the Warriors, Mr. Palihapitiya does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don't reflect those of our organization."

Finally, the criticism must have gotten to him, and a somewhat chastened Palihapitiya took to Twitter to backtrack. "As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop."

But his attempts at damage control struck others as especially ironic. "He specifically said in this conversation that if he said he cared, he was lying," Jim Geraghty pointed out. "He said the 'hard truth' is that nobody cares -- and what a statement like that means is that Chamath Palihapitiya cannot conceive of anyone else genuinely caring about China's human-rights record. He thinks everyone else is virtue-signaling, too, and that he's the only one brave enough to say that China's ongoing effort to exterminate an entire ethnic group doesn't really matter that much," So which Palihapitiya do we believe? The one who 'isn't sure China is even a dictatorship?' Or the one suddenly trying to cover up his vile complacency?

Either way, Geraghty warns, "If a guy like Chamath Palihapitiya [who's worth more than a billion dollars] can't afford the consequences of standing up for what's right, who can? Obviously Palihapitiya can afford the consequences of standing up for what's right. He just chooses not to..."

Like the rest of corporate America, he sees what he wants to see. While millions of Uyghurs go to bed every night "preparing for death at any moment," the NBA sits in its self-righteous palace, unmoved by the true stories of gang rape, live organ removal, child sodomy, medieval torture, forced sterilization, and other inhumanities they might decide to care about if they happened 7,000 miles closer. In the meantime, the league has managed to prove one thing to the world: the most dangerous obstacle to human freedom is corporate greed.