Adam Silver is in a very tough spot.
Hang on: this surely isn’t the start of a full-throated defense of the NBA. The league’s initial response to Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong’s fight for freedom was awkward, to say the least.
Offending the NBA fans in China were regrettable? cash do not get busted peeing off the Great Wall. The Rockets GM tweeted that his support for Hong Kong’s freedom, something much of the world—including the U.S.—supports. Gregg Popovich once called Donald Trump a “soulless coward.”
You didn’t see a statement apologizing to millions of the conservatives coming from the Olympic Tower.
Joe Tsai understands it. Joe Tsai was born and brought up in Taiwan, and was educated in the United States and spent many of his formative years in China.
He is also the co-founder of E-commerce monolith Alibaba, which is the only line on his resume here that matters. The company was valued at $550 billion in the year 2015, with Tsai worth a cool $9.5 billion because of it.
Tsai stated the Hong Kong-China relationship as a third-rail issue. Actually, he called Hong Kong’s “separatist movement” — a phrase straight out of a Chinese govt. talking point—a third-rail issue.
He also recounted China’s history with the foreign occupiers, adding that “Chinese psyche has large baggage when it comes to any threat, foreign or domestic, to carve up the Chinese territories.”
In a recent statement, Silver told that the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what the players, employees and the team owners say or will not say on these issues.
We just could not regulate that way.” Later, to the reporters, Silver told that the understands that there are consequences to the kind of statements Morey has made and “we’ll have to live with those consequences.”
He called CCTV’s decision not to air Thursday’s preseason game between the Nets and Lakers “unfortunate” but included that “if that is the result of us adhering to our values, we still feel it’s fundamentally important to adhere to those values.”
Silver cleaned up the NBA’s first explanation and has announced the NBA ready to live with the fallout. And there will be fallout. The Rockets will lose money. The NBA will lose cash. It’s indistinct how far China will be willing to take this.
The NBA has some influence. China cannot put the toothpaste back in the tube, either. It’s a basketball-mad country with huge number of young people playing the game and millions additionally watching it.