JIVANI: Woke NBA treats Chinese Communist Party like MVP

There is something unethical about stopping athletes from making political statements about China after Black Lives Matter was literally written in court.

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Most basketball fans don’t pay attention to the hypocrisy of the NBA. And why should they? We watch sports to have fun and to escape the stress of everyday life.

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But the NBA has made it impossible to ignore its practice of woke capitalism. At a time when the league has embraced an agenda from social justice activists, the NBA is also kneeling to the Chinese Communist Party.

It is a well-known two-level game for big companies. Step One: Score wake-up points by labeling western countries as racist. Step Two: Ignore China’s human rights abuses to gain access to the country’s lucrative markets.

Tucker Carlson received from Fox News secret audio recordings that show how much the NBA wants to please China. Carlson aired the footage on his show Wednesday night. The audio captures reactions to former NBA center Enes Kanter Freedom’s decision to wear Free Tibet sneakers while playing for the Boston Celtics last season. “Free Tibet” is associated with the Tibetan independence movement, which seeks secession from China.

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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s secretly recorded comments are particularly revealing. Silver assures Kanter Freedom, “You’re not breaking any rules about the shoes. There’s no rule you’re breaking now.” Silver then stammers, “For me, you know, I think it’s too…” before making it clear what his true intentions are: “See you at the end of the day come on, we are a company too.”

And there’s nothing wrong with being a company. But there’s something unethical about stopping athletes from making political statements about China after “Black Lives Matter” has been literally written on NBA courts and the backs of jerseys.

Ron Klempner, Senior Counsel of the NBA Players’ Union, told Kanter Freedom, “I’ve been on the phone with the NBA’s General Counsel and he would like to speak to you about your concerns. At the moment it’s not so much what you say off the pitch as what you say on the pitch when you step on the pitch.

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Perhaps the clearest message of all comes from Milwaukee Bucks co-owner Marc Lasry. Lasry is reported to have said, “China has taken a very aggressive stance…Your view is, ‘Look, you want to be in our country, you want to do things, if you complain about us you’re not allowed to do it.’ So what’s happening for the NBA is the NBA in a box.” He also says, “I see. There’s nothing… It’s business.”

When it comes to making money in China, the NBA is all about business. In the US and Canada they want to be political activists. It’s not unique in the league, but the hypocrisy is particularly frustrating for basketball fans like me.

I was a kid when the Toronto Raptors burst onto the scene. I ate the red and purple Corn Pops cereal for breakfast and looked up at “Mighty Mouse” Damon Stoudamire and Vince Carter. The NBA was a huge part of my upbringing and I’m still a huge fan to this day. One of the highlights of my media career to date was interviewing point guard Fred VanVleet last summer.

But I don’t like being treated like an idiot. Nobody does. And that’s how it feels when the NBA publicly touts its commitment to social justice while privately pressuring players to remain silent about actual justice. Basketball fans deserve to be treated with more respect.

— Jamil Jivani is President of the Canada Strong & Free Network


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