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October 11 2019

Why the NBA’s Kneeling to China is So Hypocritical

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Eyes are on the NBA because of what’s happening on the sidelines. 

When regular basketball fans carried a sign supporting freedom and democracy in Hong Kong to an NBA game in Washington, D.C. this week, their signs were confiscated and some were booted from the game by security. It also happened in Philadelphia.

This prompted many of us to wonder if we are living in America and not Beijing?

The NBA has been bowing to China’s demands to silence any support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Sadly, the NBA, which prided itself on being the most “woke” professional sports league, is not just shamefully silent but giving in to China’s demands.

There is growing tension over China’s desire to clamp down on domestic and international support for the protestors in Hong Kong. An NBA general manager stirred up trouble by tweeting support for the protestors which triggered a huge backlash by the Chinese government and Chinese people. The NBA apologized which triggered a bipartisan backlash from many Americans.

The NBA, like many U.S. companies that do business with China, have exposed (1) just how much they are willing to bend to China’s controlling of Americans’ freedom of speech and (2) their willingness to turn a blind eye to the country’s repressive behavior toward religious minorities as well as theft of American intellectual property, just so that they can have access to the market of a billion Chinese consumers.

Profit over principle is fine, just be consistent about it.

As a capitalist I understand making the bottom line the top priority. However, the NBA like many of today’s woke brands are hypocritical. They happily engage in social justice campaigns when it pertains to boycotting President Trump or his enforcement of immigration policies or supporting Black Lives Matters over the police. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, when told that the NBA is considered the most “woke” professional sports league, was happy for the praise, saying, “... I understand the sentiment and we’re proud of that.” 

You would think that the wokest league would get behind protests of China’s repression. Let’s not forget that one million Muslims are imprisoned in what we would consider Chinese concentration camps. They remain shamefully silent.

This week, the Trump administration blacklisted a number of companies thought to be complicit in the detention and surveillance of these prisoners. No, applause from woke American companies.

The Trump administration has been adamant about including intellectual property protections in any trade deals with China to stop the theft and forced transfers of our ideas and technology. Again, crickets from the woke (business) community.

Here’s the bottom line: If you're woke about Trump, police, and conservative policies, be woke about China’s repression. 

The NBA is in a truly unique position to push back on China. Chinese people love basketball! Over half a billion Chinese people watched an NBA game last season. That’s more than there are people in all of America. The NBA is the only game in town in providing this entertainment. That’s leverage they could use.

When China began to open its economy to free trade and free markets, the country flourished, rising to the number 2 nation in the world economically. But, they have yet to provide their people the democratic freedoms and rights that we enjoy.

Perhaps the NBA and other brands could export some of our freedom, the kind that the protestors are fighting for in Hong Kong, rather than importing China’s repression to our country.





Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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