Column: the NBA walks on the right side of a thin line in China

If the NBA really wanted to make a statement, it should never have issued a statement, much less two. There is no need to complicate matters when two equipment owners had already genuflected with the angry citizens of China. Or when James Harden apologized to an entire nation. The simple path for the NBA was to do what the creators of the South Park program did this week after being caught between an authoritarian regime that does not tolerate dissent and the cash pile that businesses in China can contribute. Admit what is really important. Like the NBA, we welcome Chinese censors to our homes and to our hearts, Trey Parker and Matt Stone said in their own statement. We also love money more than freedom and democracy. The creators of South Park, of course, make millions by being fun. And there's a lot to laugh at in a post that, among other things, states that the leader of China doesn't really look like Winnie the Pooh after all. There is nothing fun in this for the NBA. A league that has carefully built a reputation for social conscience for the briefest of moments did not resemble any other corporation seeking money in China. A league that embraces personal freedom seemed unable to understand that freedom means something very different in China. All this while LeBron James and company were moving rapidly towards Shanghai and a game show reception that seems to be very different from what they expected. If Commissioner Adam Silver's tortured response to the crisis facing the league is an indication, even LeBron will have a hard time explaining how to get out of it. Silver's first statement expressed regret that the Friday night tweet of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who supported protesters in Hong Kong, had offended friends and fans of the league in China. That not only did not calm China, which offered a more nationalistic translation for the public at home, but was attacked on social media for not defending the right to freedom of expression. Silver tried again and did well. But that meant further antagonizing a country where the NBA has a large investment and is making even greater profits. It is inevitable that people around the world, including the United States and China, have different points of view on different topics. It is not the NBA's role to judge those differences, Silver said. However, the NBA will not put itself in a position to regulate what players, employees and team owners say or do not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way. Give Silver credit for defending freedom of expression, if a little late. The commissioner quickly realized how unpleasant his first response was and did his best to at least sound better. However, unfortunately for the NBA, he is in a situation of losing in a country that seems eager to fight. The workers of a Shanghai gymnasium were seen in a video painting on the Houston Rockets logo, and the merchandise of the team disappeared from the stores. The state television network CCTV canceled the planned broadcast of two games between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Brooklyn Nets in China, while the Tencent broadcast service, which recently signed a five-year deal and $ 1.5 billion for the NBA rights, said it would not show Rockets games. The offers that individual players like James have in China could also be in danger. And any NBA dream that one day presents the Beijing Pandas as its new expansion team will remain a dream. All for a tweet that supports protesters in Hong Kong, who want nothing more than the same personal freedoms enjoyed by all NBA players and employees. A tweet that could soon end Morey's employment the same way he knelt during the national anthem put an end to Colin Kaepernick's time in the NFL. Freedom of expression has its consequences. There is a price paid for speaking, as Kaepernick discovered and as Muhammad Ali did half a century before him. But the price paid for going back in the values ​​of a league that has led social problems would be even worse. That's why it was critical that while Silver said on Tuesday in Tokyo that he sympathized with outrage, the league will stick to its principles of freedom of expression. Yes, there is a possibility that the Chinese money is gone. The exhibition was also carefully cultivated for three decades. But Silver had to defend a right that most Americans appreciated. He had no alternative if he and the league wanted to maintain their credibility and self-esteem. At least, no alternative as fun as the one suggested by the creators of South Park after the show seemed to disappear in the Chinese media after an episode in which Pooh and Piglet were imprisoned in China and abused after circulating online memes that compared to Chinese leader Xi Jinping with Pooh. Long live the Great Communist Party of China! the creators of the program tweeted. May the sorghum harvest this fall be abundant! Are we good now in China? ___ Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to [email protected] or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg This story has not been edited by The Times of India and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed to which we subscribe. (This story has not been edited by timesofindia.com and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed to which we subscribe.)

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