Photo credit: SupChina illustration
The NBA-China controversy continued throughout last week and over the weekend. Here’s a quick update:
- Basketball superstar LeBron James was condemned as a bootlicker by the sports press and on social media after he criticized Daryl Morey — the Houston Rockets general manager whose tweet set off the firestorm — for not being “educated on the situation at hand.”
- Tencent canceled the streaming of ESPN’s Woj in the House show, after the host was found to have “liked” the tweet by Morey.
- The anti-Morey tweet storm appears to have been a Chinese state-coordinated campaign, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.
- NBA commissioner Adam Silver said, of Morey, “We were being asked to fire him by the Chinese government.” Beijing responded furiously, with the Foreign Ministry asserting, “Silver has fabricated lies out of nothing and has sought to paint China as unforgiving.”
With the controversy becoming so hot, it can be easy to forget that, when it comes down to it, most Chinese people genuinely love NBA basketball. As many as 800 million people in China watched NBA games last season, and those who would happily follow the government to the extreme of actually banning the NBA are probably a minority.
So it’s worth reading this essay to understand a view in China that is contrarian to the government narrative — and unsurprisingly, also censored. It’s called “The NBA incident has the entire nation acting crazy,” and Pieter Velghe and Jordan Schneider have translated it in full for SupChina. An excerpt:
Looking at [Morey’s] words, I don’t see any intent to support “Hong Kong independence” and divide China. What he expresses is: Fight for freedom, stand together with Hong Kong. Even if he clearly says he supports the protesters, independence is not one of their five demands.
That Morey’s remark provoked such a strong reaction is really quite puzzling. He said he “stands with Hong Kong”; is Hong Kong not part of China? Why is it that, by standing with Hong Kong, we become so angry? Could it be that we subconsciously already look at Hong Kong as an enemy? If that’s the case, then who really is the separatist?
The other sentence, “fight for freedom,” has also attracted a lot of controversy. You have to know that freedom is written into the core socialist values of our country…
…it is perfectly reasonable for us to ask Morey to resign, because his words represent himself. But to totally boycott a club or the NBA as a whole because of Morey is logically untenable.
Learn more: The NBA’s operations in China, explained.