Too many people wiling to sell their souls.
This morning, NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a new statement about Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s support for protesters in Hong Kong, and it is a somewhat better one, declaring, “The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.”
In that statement, Silver sounds like a man who wants to do the right thing but realizes that doing so will cost his organization a fortune and perhaps even endanger people. Silver continued to try to talk a tightrope Tuesday at a news conference in Tokyo before a preseason game between the Rockets and NBA champion Toronto Raptors.
“Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees,” Silver said. “What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences.”
“We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression,” Silver said. “I regret — again, having communicated directly with many friends in China — that so many people are upset, including millions and millions of our fans. At the end of the day, we come with basketball as an opportunity to sell dreams, sell hopes . . . that we are causing disruption in people’s lives and that we are causing disharmony, that’s something I regret.”
The cops are shooting people from point-blank range in Hong Kong. Disruption and disharmony are already here. The question is what the NBA’s players, coaches, managers, owners, and officials are willing to do in response to this disruption and disharmony. (A more serious comment from the President of the United States wouldn’t hurt, either.)
Back in May, I went back to the arguments American policymakers had with themselves in the 1990s as they contemplated extending “most-favored-nation” status to China, and then “permanent normal trade relations.” Something weird happened when chief executives of American companies discussed China back then. They kept describing a market of a billion new customers, as if the average Chinese citizen was awash in disposable income. They pictured a China full of people eating American soybeans, drinking Coke, wearing blue jeans made with American cotton, celebrating with American bourbon and riding on Boeing airplanes.