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Video Game Company Joins The NBA In Sucking Up To China

AP Photo/Vincent Yu

Besides the impeachment fever hitting D.C. and Turkey’s incursion into Syria, China has grabbed headlines because, well, the NBA decided to kowtow to this authoritarian regime. Why? Well, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, tweeted support of the pro-freedom Hong Kong protesters. It’s the culmination of a cancer that is political correctness that has swept through professional sports, especially the NBA.  Guy has more:


The National Basketball Association would like you to know that it is extremely woke and conscientious.  During the anthem wars, the league's commissioner, Adam Silver, preened publicly about free speech and expression being "a core set of American values" to which the league was firmly committed.  After a viral firestorm involving transgender people and bathrooms in North Carolina, in which the state's legislature passed a controversial law, the NBA ostentatiously announced its retaliatory decision to yank its all star game out of Charlotte.  Silver also jettisoned the word "owner" to describe the people who, well, own NBA franchises, after certain political correctness enforcers decided the term represented a problematic echo of slavery-era dynamics. That comparison fails on several levels, but the demanded rhetorical sanitizing occurred anyway.


Then Houston Rockets' General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, all hell broke loose. Chinese sponsors cut ties with the organization, as the regime in Beijing reacted furiously (in keeping with its pattern of anti-speech intimidation and punishment).  Reports began to circulate that Morey might be in danger of losing his job; he quickly posted a series of mealy-mouthed tweets to 'clarify' his position and emphasize that his pro-democracy views "in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA."  Both the Rockets' owner -- er, 'governor' -- and the NBA made that reality perfectly obvious with their own pathetic missives.

The league's statement in Mandarin was even worse, calling Morey's tweet in favor of Hong Kong's freedom an "inappropriate" affront to the feelings of Chinese fans, in which the NBA is "extremely disappointed."  The league now claims they did not intend to have any differences between the American and Chinese versions of their official comments, and that the discrepancy is attributable to translation issues.


Oh, and it’s only become an even worse situation (via ABC News):

As the fallout over a since-deleted tweet voicing support for Hong Kong by the general manager of an American basketball team continues in China, several NBA Cares events were abruptly canceled this week in Shanghai.


Before the controversial tweet, the Rockets were one of the most beloved teams in China. On Oct 4., its general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. While the tweet was quickly deleted, the backlash was swift. Within a few days, China's state-run broadcasting network ordered a blackout of NBA coverage. China's internet giant Tencent, which inked a five-year, $1.5 billion deal in August to stream NBA games in China, also announced that they will not play Rockets games.

Morey has apologized, and the Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta said that Morey does not speak for them. Rockets players James Harden and Russell Westbrook apologized at a news conference, with Harden adding, "We love China, we love playing there."

And if you think the NBA was alone, think again; the gaming world has been roped into this circus. Blizzard Entertainment, a video game company known for games like Diablo, Starcraft, and Warcraft, decided to suspend a gamer named Blitzchung over his words of support for the Hong Kong movement. It was during a post-match interview for the game Hearthstone (via WaPo):


An esports player was given a one-year ban from competition because of a passionate message of support for Hong Kong protesters that he said “could cause me a lot of trouble, even my personal safety.”

Blizzard Entertainment, the American video game developer whose professional esports Overwatch League has a heavy presence in China, handed the ban to Blitzchung, a player who lists Hong Kong as his hometown and whose real name is Ng Wai Chung.


During a post-match interview on the official Taiwanese Hearthstone stream, Blitzchung, wearing a gas mask, cried, “Liberate Hong Kong. Revolution of our age!” At that point, the stream cut to a commercial break. The comment came during the last weekend of the Hearthstone Grandmasters Asia-Pacific regular season.


Like the NBA, Blizzard is heavily invested in China through its Overwatch League and it has sought to balance those business interests with the right to free expression. Tencent, the Chinese gaming giant, owns a five-percent stake in Activision Blizzard, Blizzard’s parent company. (Tencent is also the NBA’s rights holder in China.) And Blizzard has long had a partnership with NetEase, the Chinese Internet company. According to Quartz, Blizzard is believed to derive 12 percent of its revenue from the Asia-Pacific market.


“We’d like to reemphasize tournament and player conduct within the Hearthstone esports community from both players and talent,” the company said in a statement. “While we stand by one’s right to express individual thoughts and opinions, players and other participants that elect to participate in our esports competitions must abide by the official competition rules.”

Blitzchung was also stripped of his prize money.


This week, Blizzard decided to return the prize money to Blitzchung, but doubled down on its position to take this player to the woodshed for voicing his support for freedom. 

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