NBA China Controversy


Will Locklin , Staff Writer

One of the best things about the NBA is the fact that they have so many players from other countries who come overseas to play basketball at the highest level. This gives the NBA good leverage with other countries like Serbia, Australia, and China. The league can advertise and sell merchandise outside of the United States while their fan base continues to grow. 


Over the past decade, the NBA has taken strides to have a positive relationship with China by hosting basketball events and tours with players  on Chinese ground. Several preseason games were even played in China which garnered high fan turnout and generated lots of revenue. Recently, the Rockets and Raptors played a preseason game in China and Rockets, general manager, Darryl Morrey tweeted a picture with the slogan of “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong.” For  context, China has been in a heated social debate over civil rights and extradition laws. By taking a stance Morrey has put the league in a tough position. Following the tweet, the Chinese government contacted the NBA about firing Morrey for taking a position on issues that did not involve him. The NBA refused and Commissioner Adam Silver stood by his league, deterring the controversial situation from escalating.  


The reactions from around the world have mostly been in defense of Morrey. Most fans agree that Morrey was justified to express his opinion because he is an American and has the right to free speech. Others have pointed out that he should have held back from tweeting because he should have known the reaction it could cause. One opinion that is particularly interesting is that of Lebron James. When asked in a post-practice press conference about the issue, he said: “I think he was either misinformed or not educated on the situation.” He directed the blame to Morrey instead of taking the high road and defending him. Even more interesting considering James has stated that he takes the high road a lot in order to keep the peace. Lebron does this to keep the media in check, especially since they hyped him up to be the next Michael Jordan. Indeed, a portion of the media has gone on to rip Lebron, some even calling him a communist since China is a communist nation.  


This issue stretches much further than just basketball, it reflects, for the most part, the difference in political and economic systems that divide America and China. Despite these differences, an American sports league and China have been able to keep a positive relationship for several years. This should be attributed to Adam Silver, the NBA Commissioner for always keeping politics out of negotiations and business. He always focuses on the needs and wants of all parties that he deals with, including players, fans, and companies. He is the man behind the curtain that makes it all work. Once again he saved a potential political disaster from occurring by standing firm and fighting for his league.