Lately, China has gotten a bit big for its britches when it comes to its views on America’s free speech and punishing those who practice it against China. As a result, many companies have begun kowtowing to the Chinese in an effort to stay in its totalitarian government’s good graces and reap the financial reward.
Recently, three American institutions have run afoul of the Chinese government, and responses have run the gauntlet.
One of these is the NBA, which had come into controversy with China when the General Manager of the Houston Rockets tweeted out his support for the Hong Kong protesters against China.
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) October 7, 2019
Immediately, the owner of the Houston Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, made it clear that Morey doesn’t speak for the Houston Rockets and that the basketball team is not a political organization.
Listen….@dmorey does NOT speak for the @HoustonRockets. Our presence in Tokyo is all about the promotion of the @NBA internationally and we are NOT a political organization. @espn https://t.co/yNyQFtwTTi
— Tilman Fertitta (@TilmanJFertitta) October 5, 2019
And fair enough. Sports teams should stay absolutely apolitical, but Fertitta’s statement was made with the intention to appease a dictatorial nation against his own GM who tweeted out support for a movement that has sprung up that promotes freedom.
Morey deleted his tweet and essentially bent over backward to make sure the Chinese market was “appreciated.”
2/ I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.
— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) October 7, 2019
China issued a statement which doesn’t so subtly hint that the NBA should do something to make sure statements against China are never heard again according to The Hollywood Reporter:
In a news briefing in Beijing on Tuesday, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said, “These foreign teams should know the opinions of China’s citizens, or it will not work,” according to local reports. He also said that the NBA “knows what it needs to do,” seeming to suggest some kind of punishment of Morey or a more effusive apology was in order.
China censored two broadcasts of NBA preseason games in direct response to Morey’s tweet as a warning shot to the NBA that it would do better to take its advice and silence those under its umbrella when it comes to matters in China. They also noted that they were going to “immediately investigate all cooperation and exchanges involving the NBA.”
The NBA apparently isn’t going to give China what it wants, however.
Issuing a statement, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver noted that China and America have two different ways of conducting themselves from within their culture, but ultimately the NBA will stick with the American values of free speech according to THR.
“It is inevitable that people around the world – including from America and China – will have different viewpoints over different issues. It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences,” said Silver.
“However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way,” the statement continued.
The NBA is right to take this route. China has been taking its imposition to censor American enterprises to new levels, threatening that not doing so would cause the totalitarian government to ban their product within China and cause them to miss out on the billions of dollars it can afford them.
Two other instances have recently gotten the public’s attention in this regard, and we’ve seen complete opposites in terms of reactions.
The show South Park actively pointed out the ridiculous censorship imposed on American companies by China in order to maintain a position in its market. China responded by banning any trace of South Park from its television and internet. Not to be intimidated, South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker issued a middle finger of an apology to China.
Blizzard Entertainment, the popular video game maker, also ran afoul of Chinese censors when one of its E-Sports championship contenders in the game “Hearthstone” publicly made a statement that supported the Hong Kong protesters during a post-victory interview.
Blizzard proactively suspended the player, took away any cash winnings he had accumulated, and even fired the two newscasters that were conducting the interview.
As you can see, South Park sided with freedom while Blizzard cowered at the mere threat of censorship.
Both South Park and the NBA are right to tell China that they won’t cave to its censorship requirements, as doing so will effectively put many businesses at the whim of the Chinese government. Themes, philosophies, and pretty much anything that runs contrary to the Chinese government’s hold on the people will be silenced here on American shores where we celebrate freedom.
We can’t have that.
In truth, many companies should be taking South Park’s route and telling China that it’s not only not going to prevent Americans from practicing free speech, but that its philosophies of censorship and tyranny are asinine.
Our culture cannot be ruled by China. That is one of the slipperiest slopes you could ever set foot on.