NBA yuans
(Mike Allen)

Sundaze cartoonist Mike Allen and I have been texting back and forth about the absurdity of the NBA’s China problem. We decided he would ink a comic for which I would pen some amalgamation of our thoughts.

In general, it seems obvious that the NBA’s actions have been contradictory in the recent weeks. Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted (and deleted) support for Hong Kong protesters Oct. 4, setting off a firestorm of frustration among Chinese leaders and NBA leaders alike. Thanks to Yao Ming’s time with the team, the Rockets had been the most popular NBA team in the world’s most populated nation. American entertainment industries have tried to cash in on a developing Chinese consumer market in recent years, and the NBA has by far tapped the largest vein among sports leagues.

As a result, that meant Morey’s tweet jeopardized a lot of NBA league revenue when China responded negatively, suspending work with the Rockets organization specifically and even asking that Morey be fired, according to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. Chinese officials deny the allegation, but broadcasting contracts and sponsorships were cut nonetheless.

Silver has used the word “regret” multiple times to discuss the situation, trying to thread a linguistic and socio-political needle that can’t be Googled in mainland China. NBA players and coaches have largely taken a slightly different approach: hemming and hawing their ways into verbose “no comment” statements. Here in Oklahoma City, Thunder guard and NBA Players Association President Chris Paul told media Oct. 8 that he did not know much about the situation. NBA superstar LeBron James apparently “knew” enough to say Morey was “not educated” when he tweeted support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement. James attempted to clarify his ironic comments, which further made him look like an ignoramus and even yielded Hong Kong protestors to mock and criticize him. “It’s the difference between a hero and a basketball star,” one man said.

James and Paul were among four NBA stars who famously stood on stage at the 2016 ESPY awards and proclaimed “we all have to do better” on social activism. Two years later, a 2018 CNN Money article bragged on those players and the league as a whole with the headline: The NBA is not afraid to lead on social justice.

What a difference one year makes. Now, a CNN reporter has been censored while trying to ask Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook about the situation during a press conference. Harden has already apologized to China, and we all know how Westbrook likes to handle interviews anyway. But even Kyrie Irving, an infamous skeptic about the Earth’s shape, managed to say more on “freedom” and “equality” than most of his peers, though his comments were painfully vague.

All in all, the reactions of the league and some of its biggest stars have largely been gutless and hypocritical in a fashion normally reserved for the NFL.

Somebody find Craig Hodges and ask his thoughts on the situation. Or, until then, perhaps Andrew Bogut has put it best among NBA players:

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Topless ruling has some blowing their tops in Oklahoma
New OKC food halls make for tough choices
A decade’s difference in the OKC concert scene
Park opening could get extreme with release of scissortails
Daddy, which side were you on in the Chicken War?
Rest or party? Sooners on Sunday a good conundrum
OKC aquarium idea destined for lackluster sequels?
MAPS 7: After pickleball stadium’s success, voters pitched Joystick Arena
Democrat Kombat: Whose soul will be whose?
How to turn your Equifax settlement into a hangover
FaceApp recap: If you put it on the internet …
Sam Presti blows up the OKC Thunder as we know it
It’s official: College costs an arm and a leg
Oklahoma humidity: Turn around, don’t drown … in the air
Happy Father’s Day! Now help him with housework
OKC ‘Sweatpant Bandit’ taking advantage of cool temps
Opioid trial could cause tears for Johnson & Johnson
Oklahoma’s Waterworld: Dangerous, deadly, destructive
Ransomware attackers unaware of OKCPS finances
Time for Boomer and Sooner to shotgun some beers
Measles breaks out as comeback story of the year
Rumble seeks Thunder solutions at bottom of a bottle
Easter bunny encouraging camouflage eggs
Things go off the rails at the Oklahoma Capitol
A flood of news from Norman