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Time for NBA to Embrace Hong Kong Protests

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

Don’t mistake the lull with the issue going away. With the standoff in Hong Kong ongoing, the National Basketball Association still has a China problem.

The NBA should now endorse the demands of the Hong Kong protesters. After all, Hong Kongers ask only for what the league already has endorsed for this country. The NBA promotes voter rights; Hong Kongers demand universal suffrage. The NBA embraces Black Lives Matter; Hong Kongers want an independent inquiry into police brutality. League officials endorse criminal justice reform; Hong Kongers seek due process and amnesty for arrested protesters.   


The fact that the NBA is unlikely to embrace the protests is no reason for the demand not to be made. Instead, it is a reason for it to be made time and time again. The virtue of some causes is so obvious that the chances of prevailing are beside the point.

There is no folly in asking the NBA to get on the right side of history. If it refuses, at least a marker has been set down. The NBA will someday have to acknowledge its mistake, one that it therefore will be less likely to repeat.

The NBA has ascended to what it portrays as the moral high ground on a variety of issues that have nothing to do with basketball. The implication is that it does “the right thing.” Once you proclaim your innate goodness to the world, however, you can’t climb halfway down the hill when it might cost you money.

The league famously moved its 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte because the North Carolina legislature passed a law that overrode local measures that allowed transgender men to use the women’s room and vice versa.

Of course, many people believe that allowing biological men to use the ladies room is anything but the right thing. Perhaps the real reason for initiatives like this, misguided or not, has nothing to do with social justice and everything to do with insulating billionaire NBA owners from scrutiny of their own wealth, not to mention their cushy deals with taxpayer-subsidized arenas. As long as the league tows the line, owners fear no assault from the activist Left.


Having insincere motives, however, doesn’t get the league off the hook. It is stuck with its previous positions. It cannot pontificate about police misconduct here and then turn a blind eye to the daily bludgeoning of protesters in Hong Kong. The NBA appointed itself as a moral arbiter. It cannot now shirk the responsibility that comes with it. 

The Communist Party of China has been the uninterrupted ruler of China since 1949. From its founding in 1921, the Party has been the vehicle for terror and murder on a scale previously unknown to humankind. Mao Zedong’s death toll rivaled or exceeded those of Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, but unlike Nazi Germany, Mao’s armies were never defeated, and unlike Soviet Russia, the Party never lost control.

Chinese leaders do not repudiate Mao or mass murder. Thirty years ago, they massacred protesters in Tiananmen Square. The Party’s grip today is enforced by the prospect of state terror. 

Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr claimed in 2016, “Unarmed black people are being killed indiscriminately around the country.” Kerr’s inane charge was in response to the shooting of a PCP-intoxicated motorist by a Tulsa policewoman. She was tried for manslaughter and found not guilty. More recently, Kerr denounced the droning of Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, a real murderer, only to clam up when asked about China.


Kerr and the others can only find injustice in America, appearing vacuous as the Chinese totalitarian monster rises. It was a mistake for the NBA to make itself a “woke” league. If China settles the Hong Kong issue by sending in its army, embracing the protesters will only be a starting point for what will be required of Americans who have sought to appease the beast.

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