The NBA gets the Barometer’s Annual Duplicity Award. Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted the following on Friday, October 4: “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The Chinese consulate in Houston was offended, the owner of the Houston Rockets contemplated termination of Morey, and there was considerable upheaval. That Twitter. Enter the NBA on Sunday, October 6 with this statement released in English in the United States:
“We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
And then there was the version in Chinese that appeared in that country:
“We are extremely disappointed with the inappropriate comments made by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who has undoubtedly seriously hurt the feelings of Chinese fans. Morey has clarified that his remarks do not represent the position of the Rockets and the NBA. Under the values of the NBA, people can learn more about what they are interested in and share their opinions. We respect China’s history and culture with great respect. We hope that sports and the NBA, as a positive energy of unity, will continue to build bridges for international cultural exchanges and bring people together.”
The NBA’s position is that the translation was not correct in the Chinese statement and that the English version is the NBA’s position.. “Views expressed” and “inappropriate comments” do not translate the same way in any language.
Then we had the clarifying remarks from Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner, who the Barometer believes appeared in Grant Wood’s painting, “American Gothic”:
“I recognize our initial statement left people angered, confused or unclear on who we are or what the NBA stands for. Let me be more clear. Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China. We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs. And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world. But for those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business. Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game. In fact, one of the enduring strengths of the NBA is our diversity — of views, backgrounds, ethnicities, genders and religions. Twenty-five percent of NBA players were born outside of the United States and our colleagues work in league offices around the world, including in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Taipei. With that diversity comes the belief that whatever our differences, we respect and value each other; and, what we have in common, including a belief in the power of sports to make a difference, remains our bedrock principle. It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences. However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.Basketball runs deep in the hearts and minds of our two peoples. At a time when divides between nations grow deeper and wider, we believe sports can be a unifying force that focuses on what we have in common as human beings rather than our differences.”
That’s telling’ em, Commish! A little late, and a lot compromised.
The whole human rights issue goes out the window (or at least stops at the U.S. border), along with social justice, social responsibility, and plastic straw judgments, when shoe contracts and the Chinese fan base are at risk. Funny how the sports world tolerates every mollycoddled athlete who has a grievance against the United States. But let a general manager post a tweet about freedom to support a movement for just that, and the tweet must come down, a job hangs in the balance, and NBA panic sets in. Prepositional sentence-endings aside, the NBA is one fine mess. Amoebas have more structure than these various and sundry positions. Pea soup has more clarity.
There was an editorial in China about the NBA kerfuffle with this sentence, “Sports loses out when politics enters play.” Good advice for actors, athletes, and Adam.