NBA complacent in choosing monetary gain over human rights


Ben Cardillo / Hilltop Views

The NBA is failing to use its power and privilege for the greater good. Hong Kong would benefit from extra media attention and activism.

It is currently illegal for citizens to cover their face during public assemblies in Hong Kong. The new law comes after 20 weeks of violent protests throughout the city over a proposed bill legalizing the extradition of Hong Kong citizens to mainland China. 

City leader Carrie Lam proposed the bill in late March, which immediately sparked protests as many citizens saw the bill as an opportunity for mainland China to jail pro-democracy advocates in Hong Kong. Hong Kong will be subsumed by mainland China in 2047 following a 50-year grace period after gaining its independence from the United Kingdom in 1997. The country is self-governed, meaning they do not have free speech and assembly restrictions like in mainland China. However, the city is still technically considered part of China. Many in Hong Kong see the return to China as the end of their civil rights. 

Many outside of China have voiced their solidarity with the protestors, including the Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey. Morey tweeted a picture with text that read, “Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” on Oct. 4. He quickly deleted the tweet, but it sparked controversy within the league. The owner of the Houston Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, tweeted that Morey did not speak for the organization. 

The NBA has been trying to break into the Chinese market, but as a result of the tweet, Chinese President Xi Jinping has stifled NBA presence in China. This includes removing posters of NBA stars from skyscrapers and canceling broadcasts of press conferences. Jinping even tried to cancel a game series between the Nets and the Lakers but eventually allowed it to take place. However, at the game, Chinese flags were distributed to attendees and no national anthems were played. 

Politics have historically been entrenched in sports. Athletes like Jackie Robinson and Colin Kaepernick have made strides to publicize conversations about discrimination and government oppression. When people have a large platform, like professional athletes do, it is their responsibility to speak out against injustice. 

Currently, there is injustice taking place in Hong Kong. Free speech is a human right, and when government crackdowns result in the shooting of an 18-year-old and over 2,000 injuries, organizations involved with the oppressor have an ethical responsibility to suspend ties with them. 

The NBA has been more progressive than other leagues in its handling of athlete protests, withholding from fining players for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police violence and systematic racism. So why now does the league condemn the speech of its members? It seems the answer is financial. By bowing to Jinping’s wishes in order to secure its place in the Chinese market, the NBA and athletes like Lebron James, who continue to play games in China, are signaling they value money over human freedom. 

The NBA has a moral responsibility to speak out against the Chinese and Hong Kong government’s oppression of its people. The league and its players need to stand up to all government sanctioned injustices, not just the injustices here in America.