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Under the NBA’s Selective Activism, Only Some Lives Matter

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
(Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP)

Living in a bubble is a well-known colloquialism connoting isolation and lack of perception. As we watch the NBA move the league into a legitimate bubble in Orlando, the phrase couldn’t be more appropriate. 


Stoic players with no contact to the outside world wear jerseys emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter.” The court floor spells out the same words in gargantuan font. Everyone, from top NBA brass to well-noted players like Lebron James, attempts to send a clear message: slavery is terrible, racism is inexcusable, and every person should be treated equally. Make no mistake, this is nothing more than performance art and feigned activism. 

Let’s start at the bottom - with their feet. See that elongated check mark? That’s the Nike Swoosh, and it's more prevalent on NBA player bodies than a tattoo. The problem there is that Nike is the standard bearer for corporate human rights abuses, and their factories in China are one of the closest things that exist to slavery in the modern world.

It’s not hard to see why the lives of these tens of thousands of factory workers don’t matter. The reason is because our newly minted gaggle of social-justice-warrior athletes get paid to rock the Swoosh. But let’s be clear - to these BLM-t-Shirt-wearing “activists,” those workers' lives absolutely, unequivocally do not matter. 

Let’s beef things up with a little more broad-based hypocrisy: the NBA’s hyper-lucrative relationship with China. China’s Communist government currently enslaves millions, takes extremely racist actions against minorities and appears to value little to no human life unless said life is of service and committed to their party's servitude. If the NBA and its players cared about human life outside of the “bubble,” they would boycott their league’s investments in China.


The NBA has a multi-decade, multi-billion-dollar relationship with Communist China for media rights, streaming, merchandise sales, events, camps and much more. Players have nauseatingly lucrative deals with Chinese apparel and shoe manufacturers. Because NBA Basketball makes significant money on China, they refuse to acknowledge the lives that don’t seem to matter - for example, the lives of the Uyghurs. 

Starting to see the point here? In the NBA, money talks and social justice walks. The average NBA fan hasn’t heard of the Uyghurs. That’s not a testament to anything other than a lack of mainstream media coverage of their plight. 

The Uyghurs are a Turkish-speaking mostly Muslim minority residing in Far West China. This minority considers themselves to be the original inhabitants of Xinjiang. The Chinese Communist Party disagrees; therefore, they are systematically exterminating the Uyghurs. By the millions, the men are imprisoned in concentration camps, like what happened in Nazi Germany. The women are forced into sterilization, abortion or the unauthorized sale of their young children into Chinese factory slave labor. Recent footage shows hundreds of Uyghur men, handcuffed, blindfolded and heads shaved, herded onto a train bound for a secret camp. This is slavery. 

According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, some of these slaves make Nike basketball shoes. Senator Josh Howley (R-MO) alleges that these slaves also make the Nike NBA uniforms.


Has the NBA issued a statement denying or admonishing this? No. Have they painted the court or taken a knee for the Uyghurs? No. There is total ambivalence, because they are complicit and reliant on the cash. It’s pay-for-play selective activism, and not to mention disgracefully hypocritical.

The same selective activism is not exercised for the lives of young Chinese who train at USA Basketball facilities in China. According to ESPN, American coaches at three NBA training academies in China told league officials their Chinese partners were physically abusing young players and failing to provide schooling. This, even though commissioner Adam Silver had said that education would be central to the program, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the complaints. A former league employee compared the atmosphere when he worked in Xinjiang to "World War II Germany."

Again, you don’t hear political activists like Lebron saying anything. You don’t see NBA commissioner Adam Silver banging his fist in outrage. Instead you see conveniently “woke” virtue signaling. So, final buzzer-beater question: if you do not change your ways due to the wild hypocrisy, then why not at least do so to fix the epic drop in TV ratings?

In the name of keeping things productive, here is the final solution to the NBA’s current national anthem crisis: forget playing the national anthem and instead play something that’s a little more relevant to the league. How about Wu-Tang Clan’s "C.R.E.A.M" ("Cash Rules Everything Around Me")?



Erin M. Elmore is an attorney, political strategist, on-air correspondent, and the Executive Director of USA Strong, a grassroots organization focused on rebuilding American greatness. Her commentary has been featured on Fox News, Fox Business, Fox Nation, CNN, MSNBC, Yahoo News, Daily Mail, and The New York Post, among others.  Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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