Kurtenbach: Why the NBA’s big China problem is not going to go away

Over the past few years, under the watch of commissioner Adam Silver, the NBA has encouraged its players, coaches, and executives to speak up on political and societal issues. In turn, the league has positioned itself as a self-appointed bastion of progressivism.

But I bet the league wishes that Rockets general manager Daryl Morey had “stuck to sports” when he logged on Friday.

Morey’s now-deleted tweet in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong has created a legitimate international crisis — one that shines a light on both the NBA and China’s real values.

Silver and the NBA might have fumbled around at the start of this controversy, but their stance is now clear: they are not going to apologize, nor will they sanction Morey for his post.

All that stuff about being politically progressive? Well, it seems they meant it.

“We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression,” Silver said this week in Tokyo. “I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”

China wants the NBA to kowtow. Silver, in his statement, made it clear that will not happen.

And that’s going to prove extremely problematic for him and his league going forward.

Because China does not forgive.

(Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

What we have now is a standoff between China and its most popular sports league, which earns billions annually from that market, arguably its fastest-growing. It’s going to require all of the NBA’s diplomatic power and built-up goodwill to overcome, but even then, the damage might be irrevocable.

One of the NBA’s goals is to “promote the game worldwide”, as to increase international revenue streams. Over the last few years, though, that has really meant promoting the game in China. The plan was working.

Last year, per the league, more than 800 million …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Sports


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