The NBA and its players profit from China and its inhumane treatment of its citizens. Thus, when asked about China’s genocide and slave labor, members of the NBA often fold like pathetic stooges. NBA commissioner Adam Silver, promoted as the most vocal commissioner in sports, has followed his players’ lead and refused to acknowledge how hypocritical and dishonest the NBA’s relationship with China is.
Last week, Silver finally had to discuss the topic in a sit-down with TIME.
“What’s the state of the NBA’s relationship with China?” TIME asked Silver, who responded as follows:
“We continue to televise our games in China. Our most significant television partner is Tencent, which is a streaming service in China. And we have hundreds of millions of fans in China who we continue to serve. I’ll take a step back there and restate the NBA’s mission, which is to improve people’s lives through the game of basketball. And we think exporting NBA basketball to China and to virtually every country in the world continues to fit within our mission. The political science major in me believes that engagement is better than isolation. That a so-called boycott of China, taking into account legitimate criticisms of the Chinese system, won’t further the agenda of those who seek to bring about global change. Working with Chinese solely on NBA basketball has been a net plus for building relationships between two superpowers.”
In other words, the NBA does not give a damn about what China does to its citizens as long as the NBA is making money from it.
Silver says it’s the NBA’s “mission to improve people’s lives through the game of basketball.” Really? The NBA is so concerned with improving lives that its top players are cashing checks from two Chinese sneaker companies, Li-Ning and Anta, that proudly profit from Muslim slave labor.
“Engagement is better than isolation.” Ever thought about engaging in dialogue to make clear the NBA will not put up with China’s use of slave labor? That could have an impact.
Tencent, the streaming service Silver proudly spoke of, is a Chinese state-run network that suspended all NBA broadcasts because then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey showed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. What a partner the NBA has there.
TIME then asks a good one: “How do you respond to the criticism that the NBA and its players are outspoken about BLM and police violence, but don’t talk about human rights abuses in China?”
Silver: “My response there is that we and our players speak about issues that are closest to home. Our players have the absolute freedom to speak off the floor about any issue they want. I think it was a unique set of circumstances that led us to talk about Black Lives Matter over the course of last summer.”
Hmm. I’d say that NBA players, like LeBron, making money from Chinese slaves is pretty “close to home.”
And do members of the NBA really have “absolute freedom to speak off the floor about any issue they want”?
The last time one of them spoke negatively about China — Morey — LeBron told him to shut up and not be “selfish.” If there is such freedom, Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban didn’t get the message before he exposed himself on the issue in an interview with Megyn Kelly.
“China is a customer of ours,” Cuban explained to Kelly. “And I’m OK with doing business with China.”
The truth is: NBA players think that supporting BLM and condemning police is good business online. Speaking out about China is not. NBA players don’t care about human rights. They care about their bank accounts.
TIME: “But what about basketball will help China change their ways on human rights? Is that too Pollyannaish?”
Silver: “I don’t want to overstate it. While I’m a believer in soft power, I’m certainly not sitting here claiming that by virtue of televising NBA games in China lo and behold, there’ll be a reckoning in China to adopt a Western point of view about human rights.
“I do think that in order to bring about realistic change, we have to build relationships. At the end of the day we’re all human beings. And while there are many differences between our society and Chinese society, there are enormous commonalities as well. One of them is to love a sport. And basketball happens to be the most popular team sport in China right now. We think that through that common love and appreciation of the game of basketball, that that’s a way to bring people together. It’s as simple as that.”
Translation: nothing about basketball will change China’s ways of human rights, and Silver knows it. Yet, the relationship makes the NBA money, a lot of money. So, it’s all good.