The twin American idols of free speech and commerce had a violent collision last week when the general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets sent out a tweet in favor of Hong Kong’s protests against their treatment at the hands of the Chinese government.
Daryl Morey is the general manager of the team and a tweet he sent out said, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
Now, if you don’t follow the NBA or use twitter or pay attention to international politics you might wonder what the big deal is. It’s just a game, you might think, and tweeting is stupid and what is Hong Kong exactly? A city? A country?
Well, according to Wikipedia, “Hong Kong, officially the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, is a special administrative region on the eastern side of the Pearl River estuary in southern China.”
There’s a lot more to it, of course, but if you’re really interested, I’ll let you look it up yourself. It’s always good to learn on your own.
Suffice to say, the people of Hong Kong, which was a British colony from 1842 to 1997, have been unhappy for 22 years with the way the Chinese treat them. There have been lots of protests over the years, but there’s a major one going on at the moment and it was this protest Morey decided to comment on.
This collision happened because the NBA, jealous its $8.9 billion profit last year is barely half of that of the NFL, has been making inroads to China ever since Yao Ming, a seven footer from the boot shaped country, played in the league.
It was all going well.
The Chinese people loved the giant Americans in their midst, the NBA loved Chinese money and we all loved the cheap products from China in our local dollar stores.
But China has proven to be very sensitive when it comes to criticism over the years.
And a seven word tweet from a pro sports manager that probably 95% of the world has never heard of set it off.
China decided it didn’t love the NBA anymore, the games played over there the last few days have been sparsely attended and those who did show up, hid from cameras. Morey deleted the tweet, but the damage was done. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he stood behind Morey’s free speech rights, but he still headed to China to make amends.
When billions of dollars are at stake, there’s no such thing as pride.
There are several things you can take away from this. One, why should we care what China, a historically brutal regime, thinks about the NBA? Why should we care about what the NBA thinks about China? Isn’t China the bad guy in a lot of movies?
Isn’t Jackie Chan Chinese?
Some of his movies were pretty good. And what does this have to do with the price of green beans in Monroe County?
We shouldn’t care what China thinks of the NBA or how the NBA feels about them, yes China is the bad guy in a lot of movies, I’ve never actually seen a Jackie Chan movie and it has nothing to do with any bean prices in Monroe County.
But it does have every thing to do with free speech and the idea that an American citizen made a small comment in support of people who don’t like the way they’re being treated and his bosses — and a depressing number of Americans — started screaming bloody murder and kowtowing to a foreign government.
We love free speech in America and we love making money, but the freedom to think, believe and say how we feel should always trump even the largest amount of money. Conservatives spent eight years saying the worst things about Obama and liberals have now spent three years saying the worst things about Trump, but as far as I know, no one just suddenly disappeared because of what they said.
Jobs might have been lost, relationships frayed or ended, but we all got to go home at the end of the day and didn’t wake up to a harsh knock on the door in the middle of the night. Criticism of the government and the people who operate the government controls is the one thing that really sets us apart from most of the world.
Free speech has always been rather important to me, for obvious reasons, and while I’m not exactly a controversial guy with my writings, I can say I’ve never had anything turned down for publication. That won’t make me a hero to whoever the “opposition” is at any given time, but I can live with it.
What I can’t live with, and neither should you, is a mild rebuke of a foreign government by one of your fellow Americans leading to the nonsense we now have.
It is indeed a slippery slope.