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Tuesday, October 15, 2019

NBA Cares About Profits

"NBA Cares" is a clever marketing slogan, but some people are just now figuring out what all of us should have always understood: the NBA is a multi-billion dollar business that "cares" first and foremost about profits. Any public stance that the NBA and/or its players or coaches have taken on a social or political issue has rarely involved sacrifice of money or freedom for a larger principle (see below for one notable exception, involving Enes Kanter).

In 1967, when Muhammad Ali refused to participate in the military draft, he sacrificed his heavyweight world championship title, a significant amount of money and the prime years of his boxing career. Whether or not you agreed then or agree now with the stance that he took, there is no denying that Ali placed his beliefs and his principles above profit. In marked contrast, the NBA with its slogans, and its individual players sporting t-shirts and spouting comments, have rarely displayed the kind of courage that Ali did.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has a fiduciary responsibility to his bosses--the owners of the league's 30 franchises--to maximize the NBA's profitability. That is Silver's primary job, and the owners can fire him if he does that job poorly, or if they determine that someone else could do a better job. Understand that, and you understand why Silver is doing everything in his power to appease a totalitarian Chinese regime that does not approve of Daryl Morey's tweet regarding Hong Kong.

On October 4, 2019, Darryl Morey, the Houston Rockets' General Manager, tweeted "Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong." After a major backlash from China's Communist government--including economic reprisals against the NBA--Morey deleted his Hong Kong tweet. Hong Kong dealt with many anti-government demonstrations this past summer regarding a proposed bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited from Hong Kong to mainland China, whose judicial system's fairness is questionable, to say the least. China's long, awful history of oppression and government-sanctioned violence is well-documented--including the ongoing persecution of Uighur Muslims--so it is understandable why Hong Kong 's citizens would prefer to maintain as much autonomy as possible.

On Sirius XM Radio's NBA channel, former NBA player Brendan Haywood summarized the NBA's policy considerations succinctly and accurately. Haywood said that the NBA is primarily focused on profits, which explains why the NBA took a pro-LGBT position regarding the All-Star Game in North Carolina, and also explains why the NBA will continue to bow to Chinese pressure regarding Morey's tweet: the LGBT community and the Chinese government both represent constituencies that are significant income sources for the league. Haywood concluded that if the LGBT community did not have purchasing and lobbying power, and if China did not provide a significant portion of the league's Basketball Related Income (BRI) then the NBA would have had different policies in both situations.

The NBA's policies are not based on "caring" or being "woke" or any other high-sounding principles. The NBA's policies are based on generating income and increasing profits--period.

One could argue whether or not that is the way the NBA should run its business, but there is no disputing how the NBA is running its business, and therefore the NBA should stop publicly emphasizing how socially conscious the league is. The NBA should admit that it does not want to lose billions of dollars of revenue from the Chinese market, and therefore the league is willing to turn a blind eye to the Chinese government's oppressive policies, even though some of those policies adversely affect the very same groups and people who the NBA purportedly "cares" about in other circumstances.

Regarding NBA coaches like Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich who have been very outspoken about selected topics but are following the company line regarding China, we understand that China is paying a significant portion of their salaries and thus they may find it imprudent to offend their master, but it is disingenuous for them to act like they take high-minded, thoughtful positions on social and political issues if they are unwilling to speak out about China. Think back to any previous public policy pronouncement made by Kerr or Popovich; have they ever risked or sacrificed their money or freedom to uphold a principled belief the way that Muhammad Ali did?

Kerr's specific statement that he does not feel well informed enough about China to comment does not pass muster; Kerr, Popovich and other world famous NBA figures have made numerous personal appearances in China, and those appearances lend comfort and support to that country's regime. When you do that, and when China is paying part of your salary, you have an obligation to be informed. Further, Kerr's comment that all countries, including the United States, have issues to address is, to put it mildly, an ignorant comparison/moral equivalency. China is a dictatorship whose citizens do not have the most basic rights: no right to vote, no right to due process, no right to free speech. Chinese citizens can be arrested or even killed without consequence.

In the United States, citizens have the right to elect government officials, the right to due process and the right to publicly speak out--including the right to criticize government officials, a right that Kerr and Popovich regularly exercise. The American Experiment--the American Dream--of a multi-ethnic, multi-religious community living together in peace and freedom is not perfect, but it is unprecedented in human history and it is a beacon of hope for many people around the world; that is why people tend to flee China and countries like China, and why people flock to America. If you cannot understand the differences between the challenges of holding together a fragile, free and open multicultural society versus the systematic evils committed by a totalitarian regime then you are a fool. If you understand those differences but decline to speak truth to power because it might cost you money, then you are something far worse than a fool. I respect Kerr and Popovich as coaches, as leaders, and as generally intelligent individuals, and that is why I expect a lot more from them on this issue than they have provided thus far.

This is not meant to suggest that players should "shut up and dribble" or that coaches should "shut up and coach." The point is that there is a vast difference between speaking out publicly only when it benefits you financially--or, at the very least, is unlikely to cause you any financial harm--as opposed to speaking out publicly in a way that could potentially cause you financial harm. Many years ago, Michael Jordan was heavily criticized for allegedly saying, "Republicans buy sneakers, too" to justify not endorsing a Democrat, but at least Jordan was honest and not hypocritical: he did not want to make any political statements that might cost him money.

LeBron James' recent comments criticizing Morey's tweet are the height of hypocrisy; however you think or feel about Jordan, he was honest: he was not trying to be Muhammad Ali or Curt Flood or Oscar Robertson. James strives to be perceived as "woke," but chides Morey for a tweet because "so many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually." Translation: "Shut up and be a GM, Mr. Morey, because you are potentially costing me a lot of Chinese money."

James added, "I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand and he spoke," and James later tweeted about Morey, "Could have waited a week to send it." So, was Morey truly not "educated" or should he have just "waited a week" to save the NBA's money?  How would James respond if someone suggested that he is not "educated" about the issues that he addresses publicly, or that James should wait before commenting because his comments might affect others on his team or in the league? Has James ever considered how anyone but himself is affected by his statements and actions? Let's take a poll of his teammates from last season--or his Cleveland teammates circa 2010--on that point.

In contrast to James, Enes Kanter has publicly spoken out against the repressive policies of Turkey, Kanter's native land. Responding to James' reaction to Morey, Kanter tweeted the consequences of his public statements about Turkey:

"-Haven't seen or talked to my family 5 years
-Jailed my dad
-My siblings can't find jobs
-Revoked my passport
-International arrest warrant
-My family can't leave the country
-Got Death Threats everyday
-Got attacked, harassed
-Tried to kidnap me in Indonesia


Kanter has made many sacrifices as a result of his public stance. If he wants to call himself "woke," he has earned that right (but most, if not all, people who are truly "woke" would never describe themselves that way). Most of the other members of the NBA community are more interested in counting dollars than making sense.
In today's globally interconnected economy, it is probably difficult it not impossible for most of us to have no economic connection to China or Chinese products (It could also be debated whether it is better to boycott, or to engage with the hope of changing policies over time; a detailed discussion of that topic is beyond the scope of this article, but as a starting point to that conversation I would suggest boycotting authoritarian regimes, while working with countries that have free elections and free speech even if we disagree with some policy decisions made by those countries). However, the NBA has chosen to actively participate in China's economy to a significant extent, and to reap billions of dollars in income from that participation. The NBA could decide to participate to a much lesser extent, or to make any participation at all contingent on policy changes that enhance personal freedom for China's citizens. The NBA has chosen otherwise, and it is weak for Kerr, Popovich or anyone else to ignore that choice or to plead ignorance about it. To put it in the vernacular phrasing, regarding China, I would suggest, "If you don't know, ask somebody"--and ask somebody outside of the NBA cocoon, somebody who understands the issues. To borrow a phrase, this is more than a game--this is a life and death situation for the Chinese people.

It would be unfortunate if Daryl Morey loses his job as a result of his tweet, but Haywood made a good point about this as well: the Constitutional right to free speech means that the U.S. government cannot prevent you from voicing your opinion, but it does not protect you from being fired by your private employer. It is interesting that, for all of Morey's self-professed analytical acumen, he could not figure out that tweaking the totalitarian source of billions of NBA dollars would not go over well with the league. However if Morey is fired, it should not be because of his tweet, but because he is a flawed talent evaluator who ranks James Harden ahead of Michael Jordan as a scorer and because the advantages that he self-promotes as a "stat guru" have failed to translate into a single NBA Finals appearance after more than a decade of wheeling and dealing.

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posted by David Friedman @ 6:25 PM



At Wednesday, October 16, 2019 2:28:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...

Excellent article David. Was waiting for you to weigh in. Am not disappointed. I agree that Kerr and Pop need to take a firmer stand. Even if it's simply what Terry Stotts said, "As an American, I believe in free speech and democracy. It's kinda what we stand for."

Simple truth. He's not bashing anyone else's views, but he is simply reinforcing his own beliefs and the ideals that this country (supposedly) stands for.

As for Lebron...I think back to your quote on Kobe -- that the truth always reveals itself. We can laud Lebron for never getting into any legal trouble, or being involved with extramarital affairs, or domestic violence, or drug abuse, or any of the other pitfalls that have historically been the banes of professional athletes.

However, he's a fraud. The fact that he literally said in his follow up yesterday, "This is what I think..." is another glowing example of the man's narcissim and selfishness. Also, he's rather clueless. Why call out Morey as "uneducated or uninformed" on the subject, while he himself has no understanding of the situation in China. He said Morey was only thinking about himself, but really, it can be argued that Morey was thinking about those suffering in Hong Kong (and his friends that are there). Everything Lebron touches/involves himself which feels fake to me. It has for many years, and now that he's in Los Angeles, I see it up close constantly.

That all said, my one point I disagree with you on is that I do believe Morey should be fired for this -- which is what I think was Lebron's intention with his ill-timed presser the other day. I can at least understand the outrage from the players, especially those that were going to or already in China to promote the NBA. They were put in a compromising situation because Morey decided to speak freely. Morey's Tweet, while thoughtful for those he was tweeting for, was ultimately reckless from a business standpoint -- both the timing and content. Like you pointed out, for a franchise so closely tied to China for so many years, it was a huge misstep by him. And intentional or not, he should be held accountable for his actions. I get that firing him now would feel like cowtowing to China...but it isn't. And, freedom of speech, freedom in general, does have a high price. Losing a job pales in comparision to losing one's life to death or prison. Which is what is at the heart of the matter between China and Hong Kong.

Colin Kapernaek forfeitted his career and has been since blacklisted out of the NFL for speaking freely. It seems the height of hypocrisy for a man of color to be held accountable for losing the league money, but a white executive basically gets a tongue lashing despite what looks to be a signficantly more damaging action.

I think that is the only angle that could even remotely justify Lebron opening his mouth nearly 2 weeks after the incident. Sadly, Lebron can't seem to get out of his own way sometimes with the words he chooses and the positions he takes.

At Wednesday, October 16, 2019 4:13:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jordan, I'm totally confused by what you're saying. On one hand, you're saying James is basically an idiot, which seems accurate. But, then you say Morey should be fired because he has a different stance, which is standing up against a corrupt nation. But then seem to imply Kaepernick has been shafted unfairly. Kerr/Popovich seem like cowards now since they like to dish out their opinions whenever possible, but now are completely silent.

Anyway, I don't really see any problem with his tweet, unless it's from the NBA profit-making perspective, which I could care less about. And NBA will be making loads of money regardless. But then, Morey does work in the NBA world, but doesn't directly work for the NBA front office. Silver can't force Houston to fire him, to my knowledge, especially since Silver works for Houston(and every other team), but I suppose there could be pressure on Houston to fire him. Even with Morey didn't understand what his tweet would lead to, which I'm not sure anyone could possibly think this might outrage would come from it but maybe, he was standing up for the little guys. The way China is reacting to a little 7-word tweet speaks volumes.

At Wednesday, October 16, 2019 6:16:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


I'm not saying James is an idiot. He's obviously very smart in many ways. I'm saying he's absolutely tone deaf at best...and a complete fraud at worst. How he projects himself and his actual self are polar opposites.

(Case in point: Have you seen him preach on a soapbox in NBA 2k20, "Those people, those kids, they exist on every corner of the globe, and they’re all deserving of a chance. I believe no one person is capable of turning the tide, but we all have an obligation.”)

I personally have no problem with the content of Morey's tweet. However, his tweet directly caused the loss of potentially hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars (if not more) and damaged a business relationship that has been a foundational one for a burgeoning NBA. As a man, as an American, Morey has that right to tweet. As a business man, as part of the NBA business, he should be held accountable for his actions. Especially in light of Kaepernick, who lost his job and his ability to play in the NFL because of the stance he took that supposedly cost the NFL millions of dollars (though proof he actually hurt the NFL's bottom line is scant).

The Kaepernick thing is a done deal. He's out of the NFL. His stand was against police brutality/gun violence in the country he lives in and he has been severely punished for his freedom of speech. Morey, whose franchise helped bridge the China/USA relationship (which means even more so than Kerr or Popovich, he should have known better), has affected the financial outcomes of 30 franchises, over 400 players, and every business that works with and/or relies on the NBA machine. Again, I agree with the content of his tweet (especially the heart-felt nature of it), but it was standing for non-US citizens.

Kaepernick took a stand for US citizens getting murdered in the US by US law enforcement. He lost his career and financial earnings while his business partner (the NFL) lost minimally.

Morey "took a stand" for non-US citizens in a foreign country. He has lost nothing, while his business partners (including hundreds of players) lose millions.

I have a huge problem with this discrepancy.

Perhaps my thinking is off as 2 wrongs don't make a right. But in a country currently divided by color lines, punishing the man of color and letting the other (a white man) get off for basically free -- besmirches the very ideals of "we the people" and a "more perfect union." I brought up this disparity as a way to possibly justify Lebron's press conference and his words. I can see why he and others would feel like a double standard is in effect...

That said, in my mind, what Lebron actually said and the reasoning behind what he said does not provide any justification at all. It just exposes him as a fraud.

At Thursday, October 17, 2019 12:23:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No idea what James is thinking nor do I care.

You might be right that Morey's tweets could cost the NBA lots of money. Time will tell. However, him/his franchise seem like a huge player helping the NBA make lots of money to begin with. But it's sad if he's fired and people think he should be fired because of one tweet about standing up for humanity; US citizens or not is irrelevant. Also, I could care less if the NBA loses some money and James can only make $30million/year instead of $40million/year. The NBA will continue to thrive with/without China.

Your Kaepernick example is interesting, but an entirely different situation and a different league. And whatever team he'd play on, there'd be a media circus around him. What team wants to deal with that? San Francisco was also terrible in his last year finishing 2-14, so it wasn't like he was doing much. A similar example was Tim Tebow, who actually played well in his lone season as a starting QB. There was no outside controversy surrounding him, but whatever team he played after DEN would've drawn a media circus. Teams don't want that. Whether fair or not is another issue. And Tebow is white.

Kaepernick's stance was viewed disrespectful to our government by many. Whether the way he went about it was in a correct manner is an entirely different debate. Morey's stance is only disrespectful to backwards China. Morey still might be fired. It's been less than 2 weeks. But like I said before, who fires him? Houston has to be the ones, not the NBA front office. I don't like to cry wolf over racism. It's all too convenient as an excuse. Sure, it could be involved with Morey, but who knows exactly. It's interesting you bring up the ideals of our country to suggest Morey should be fired while Morey is standing up for freedom. Kind of ironic. Even if you think the Kaepernick/Morey comparison is apt, we should be asking for Kaepernick to have or keep his job instead of asking for Morey to be fired. Just because someone believes Kaepernick undeservedly lost his job, that doesn't mean we should want someone else to undeservedly lose their job to even it out. Though from an NBA business side, maybe Morey deserves to lose his job, but that seems sad to me, but also a different argument.

At Thursday, October 17, 2019 12:36:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


I agree with you that this conversation around firing Morey is not in the spirit of American idealism. It's a terrible discussion. The reason I am talking about this and about Lebron's press conference, is that they are related. Lebron and a sect of players went to Adam Silver to complain that Morey faced no repercussions despite impacting so many people. And while I am acutely aware that "racism" is often grossly misused as justification for complaining or forcing punishment, in the case of the NBA, where at least 60% of the player base is black, there isn't really a convenient way to dismiss this as "not about race."

I also agree with you that the NBA doesn't have the ability to fire Morey and that the act of firing Morey can and will be viewed as America bending to an authoritarian POV. However, America is also the king of capitalism. In fact, you can make an easy argument backed by countless facts that today's America is MORE about Capitalism than it is about freedom. We prioritize the needs of medical insurance companies over providing healthcare for all. We revoked net neutrality. We back big oil instead of pushing for clean energy. We don't punish the massive tech companies for building factories in third world countries. We punish/banish/jail whistleblowers while letting bank executives that were directly responsible for the great recession, get away not only Scot free, but with billions of dollars in severence bonuses. Etc. Etc. Etc.

In capitalism, if you're losing money (especially massive amounts of it), you are the opposite of an asset and thus, deserve to be fired. People all across the country lose their jobs because they lose their company money. Freedom of speech is not free. Kathy Griffith exercised her right to freedom of speech, and the death threats that followed are the price she is paying. Lebron James had a press conference to denounce Morey. His jerseys are being burned in Hong Kong. It's interesting you bring up Tim Tebow. I do see his situation in the same realm with Kaepernick, though they are uniquely different. Tebow was black listed from the league because of his beliefs. His religion. The media circus that followed him, followed him because he talked about Jesus all the time and was able to win football games as a wholesome young man. And, while he exercised his right to freedom of speech and freedom of religion, he suffered for them as well.

Where we disagree is regarding Morey "standing for freedom". Social media can be a powerful tool to organize and induce action. However, posting a generic "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong" meme to one's instagram isn't really taking a stand. It's certainly not bending a knee in front of 50,000 people on nationally broadcast games for an entire season or crusading for Jesus for an entire year as a professional athlete. What it is, what it appears to be I should say, is the easiest way to be a social justice warrior and get likes from your like-minded followers.

Morey was 100% careless with his post.

I mean, even if we paint the most positive light surrounding Morey's post, if he truly was "standing for freedom", he wouldn't have deleted it. Kaepernick knelt regardless of the backlash. Tebow praised God despite how it rubbed coaches, teammates, and the media. Morey put his tail between his legs, deleted his post, and then wrote a lengthy apologetic justification. And why did he do that? Because Morey is a capitalist at heart too. He understands how much he messed up and/or is bowing to the almighty dollar (ie, pressure from his employer and the NBA who pay his bills).

Carelessness, regardless of intent, should have consequences. So, despite the fact that the content of Morey's now deleted post is idealism I believe I personally stand for, the facts of the matter dictate Morey should lose his job and suffer the capitalistic consequences of exercising his right to speak freely.

At Thursday, October 17, 2019 12:43:00 PM, Blogger Jordan said...


One other thing. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the hypocrisy of this statement, "Kaepernick's stance was viewed disrespectful to our government by many."

Please know I'm not calling you a hypocrite. Just the idea behind that sentence. I mean, I thought China was the authoritarian government that silences its people, represses free speech, and punishes anyone that dares to speak disrespectfully? America is all about freedom...

At Thursday, October 17, 2019 4:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just because the NBA is mostly black, or if it was red, yellow, or whatever, doesn't mean this or any other issue is necessarily race related.

Your capitalism argument might partially or entirely true, but that's irrelevant. You're not Morey's employer. If Morey's employer doesn't want to fire him, then that's his choice, not yours or anyone else's. I also don't believe Houston will lose any money. They might not make as much as before this, but they're probably not going to lose money.

I'm not sure Tebow was black listed only because of his beliefs, but probably partially. Lots of football players express their beliefs, but Tebow probably moreso. I brought him up as a counterexample because he's white and you're bringing up race because you think that's a big reason why Kaepernick was black listed and why Morey hasn't been fired yet, which I disagree with race having much influence if any in these matters.

Morey may have been reckless, but what he said is still better than nothing, and better than what Kerr, James, etc. are doing. At least one positive is coming out of this: the burning of James' jerseys. And his little tweet set into action a lot of things, btw.

Was or wasn't Kaepernick taking a knee for the national anthem viewed disrespectful by many? I didn't say me. Was that really the best way to express his stance though? America is about freedom, and Kaepernick has the freedom to do what he did just like the rest of us could do similarly. But, that doesn't mean what he did wasn't viewed as disrespectful to many people even if he wasn't trying to be disrespectful. I mean, if I post a video of myself of flipping off the American flag and tearing it to pieces, that's the freedom I have; but I'd think most Americans could characterize that as disrespectful to our country.

At Thursday, October 17, 2019 6:27:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The NBA's main problem here is that it should not be doing business with a totalitarian, Communist regime on that regime's terms. If the NBA were focused on principles and not profits, then the league would either leave China or make it clear to China the terms under which they would be conducting business. Of course, it is extremely unlikely that the NBA will take such a principled stance.

So, we are left with a farce and a charade. Adam Silver says out of one side of his mouth that the NBA supports free speech, but out of the other side of his mouth he (or someone who reports to him) almost certainly pressured Morey to delete the tweet.

Regarding Morey, if he valued principle more than his job, then he would have refused to delete the tweet and he would now be the general manager of some team in Hong Kong, which might be the only place that would hire him (since most of the world is chasing Chinese money). On the other hand, if he did not value principle at all then he never would have made the tweet in the first place. Perhaps he thought he was making a statement in a non-threatening way. If that is the case, he is very naive.

Speaking strictly from a business standpoint and ignoring any pretense of caring about morality, principles or human rights, LeBron James had a point: Morey's tweet cost a lot of people--including LeBron's favorite person: himself--a lot of money. From a business standpoint, Morey should have thought twice about making that tweet. From a business standpoint, James is correct--but if that is his final answer here, then he needs to abandon any pretense of being "woke" and of standing for anything other than himself and his business interests.

I just re-read an article from the January 2015 issue of the Smithsonian. In September 1962, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was giving a speech in Birmingham, Alabama at a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. A man emerged from the crowd, came on stage, punched Dr. King in the face and continued to hit Dr. King, whose injuries prevented him from continuing for the rest of the convention--but, while he was being hit, Dr. King shouted to his followers, "Don't touch him! Don't touch him! We have to pray for him." The man was a member of the American Nazi Party. Rosa Parks and other activists later recalled that this is when they first really saw Dr. King, and understood that non-violent non-cooperation was not just an intellectual abstraction to Dr. King: it was the way that he lived, and, of course, sadly it was the way that he died.

Anyone who compares 99% of the so-called "woke" people of today to Dr. King is incredibly ignorant, or is intentionally perpetrating an assault on historical truth.

As I wrote in my article, truly being "woke" means be willing to sacrifice everything, including fame, fortune and possibly even your life. Few people come close to that standard; the NBA is so far away from that standard it would not be able to see it with the Hubble Telescope.

At Friday, October 18, 2019 9:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks for positing Muhammad Ali as the standard of sportsmanlike "wokeness," for the very real sacrifices he made for his beliefs. He, and Colin Kaepernick, remind us that "principle" is about doing the right thing regardless of the consequences. Ali then, and Kaepernick now, show that principle is more important than money and prestige. You also make a nice point about Michael Jordan, that at least there was no sanctimonious pretense there: "show me the money!" I also appreciate you mentioning MLK and the satyagraha principles he stood for, and died for, in the name of freedom and democracy.

Clarity is important because, with Ali and Kaepernick as standards of athletic "wokeness," it's easier to put Morey's tweet, and James' reaction, in perspective. That neither Morey nor James is principled to the point of "wokeness." The one, because he deleted his tweet, and the other, for fixating on his bottom line. Furthermore, James, unlike MJ, is actually hypocritical in that he pretends to "wokeness."

As to the confrontation between the NBA and China that Morey precipitated with his tweet, I think that the NBA (and the USA more generally) would do well to consider Ayn Rand's three rules of thumb regarding principle and compromise, from her essay "The Anatomy of Compromise":

"1) In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic principles, it is the more consistent one who wins.

"2) In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins.

"3) When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side."

I would argue that the first rule does not apply because of China's totalitarian denial of free speech. That said, insofar as China does pretend to freedom and democracy and to the standards outlined by the UN Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and thus to holding the same basic principles that we Americans do, then the NBA will win insofar as it consistently holds to freedom and democracy as moral imperatives.

Rule 2 definitely applies. As you suggested, so long as the NBA deals with China on China's terms, China will win out. Until China respects freedom of speech and due process and other fundamentals of democracy, the NBA will lose out so long as it collaborates with that totalitarian regime.

As to Rule 3, it would have been better if the NBA had clearly and unapologetically stood by Morey's tweet. In fact, the NBA itself might have even retweeted Morey's tweet. I understand the business argument as to why the NBA pressured Morey to untweet his tweet, and why James was so upset. But their reaction to Morey begs the question: What is the NBA about? What does it stand for?

Again, looking at Rule 3, if the NBA were to stand for democracy and freedom and the American way, then support of Morey would work to its advantage in the long run. But if the NBA merely stands for capitalism and the free market -- "show me the money!" -- their kowtowing to the almighty Chinese dollar will only work to the advantage of the world's mightiest totalitarian regime. (China owns, what, $2 trillion of American debt?)

Here's the bottom line:

So long as American institutions allow capitalism and the free market to obscure democracy and freedom, the values of our democratic republic, China will win. That is, so long as the NBA etc. sell out their principles for Chinese market share, they are effectively kowtowing to a totalitarian regime even as Chamberlain appeased a certain totalitarian regime in the late 1930s.

At Monday, October 21, 2019 8:59:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Thank you for a very well thought out and in depth comment.


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