Monday morning, the National Basketball Association — self-proclaimed protectors of “a core set of American values” — decided one of its general managers, Houston Rockets' Daryl Morey, needed to be censured for hurting Chinese basketball fans’ feelings after he tweeted support for the pro-democracy Hong Kong protestors.
Guy covered the hypocrisy in detail, pointing out the NBA has very little problem tolerating players, coaches and affiliates espousing politics. Just not, apparently, when it offends a cash cow market like China.
And the backlash was swift, Benson reports:
When 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."
The league also released a statement disavowing Morey’s personal thoughts on the matter and essentially apologizing to communist China.
This is just the latest in what appears to be a disturbing pattern that has American entertainment entities conveniently loosening their appreciation for free speech so as not to offend Chinese audiences (or, more accurately, the Chinese state).
Thankfully, there has been some rather oddly effective criticism of that trend. In this case, some of the best and loudest comes from the entertainment industry itself in the persons of Matt Stone and Trey Parker, creators of the irreverent and hilarious “South Park.”
In a recent episode, “Band in China”, Stone and Parker offer a scathing indictment of Hollywood’s acquiescence to China by having the boys of South Park attempt to create a band biopic, only to have it scrubbed of nearly all truth to make it palatable to Chinese censors.
“Boys, let’s not say anything about this being a free country,” the producer tells young Stan. “These guys were kind enough to come all the way from China to help us with our standards.”
There’s more where that came from, but South Park isn’t always a family show, so you can watch the rest for yourself.
The episode was almost immediately banned in China, leading its creators, Stone and Parker, to throw a little shade at the NBA and issue their own “apology.”
South Park was removed from Chinese streaming services after the irreverent animated series poked fun at Hollywood for bowing to Beijing's strict censorship rules, prompting creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone to issue a tongue-in-cheek 'apology' on Monday.
'Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts,' the show's creators wrote in a statement posted on Twitter.
'We too love money more than freedom and democracy, they wrote, adding: 'Xi doesn't look just like Winnie the Pooh at all.'
The message, which urges the audience to tune into Comedy Central, ends with the line: 'Long live the Great Communist Party of China! May this autumn's sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now, China?'
Thankfully, in a system that allows for free speech, you find heroes in the strangest places. Won’t it be a weird future if the real American values men fought and died to protect end up protected once more by two smart aleck cartoonists who seem to understand the value of principles over making a buck?
Sarah Lee is a freelance writer and policy wonk living and working in Washington, DC.