The Chinese government newspaper Global Times warned “global brands” to “make their members speak cautiously” on Chinese political issues Monday in response to an ongoing controversy following an NBA executive lending support to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey triggered a Communist Party-fabricated firestorm this weekend by simply tweeting “fight for freedom; stand with Hong Kong,” a message intended to lend support to the peaceful anti-communist movement that has held regular protests there since June.
Following condemnation from the Communist Party and its puppets in Chinese society, social media, and the NBA, the NBA itself issued a statement also condemning Morey for simply challenging the dogma of a country currently maintaining a million-strong concentration camp population. The NBA has established a training camp in the same province as the concentration camps.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver attempted to walk back condemnation of Morey following outrage from Americans shocked that an American sports league would censor free political speech, particularly one that has spent years fostering political debate among its athletes and stars. The Chinese regime is still forcing streaming companies to cancel NBA game broadcasts in response to the controversy.
In an article published Monday titled “Global Brands Better Stay Away from Politics,” the Global Times warned Americans, and international actors, that Chinese authoritarian speech restrictions now apply worldwide and any protests in the name of free speech are “ridiculous.”
“Daryl Morey, general manager of the NBA team the Houston Rockets, has obviously gotten himself into trouble,” the article lamented, calling Morey’s skill at his job “simply too poor” for challenging an authoritarian regime.
“Commercial and cultural organizations which engage in transnational operations should manage their attitudes and statements over sensitive issues. Impulsive words can easily trigger a backlash,” the newspaper advised. “Respecting customers is a universal business rule. Morey has to choose between safeguarding his individual freedom of speech and protecting the Rockets’ commercial interests by respecting the feelings of Chinese fans. When he opted for the former, the Rockets will have to make a second choice from the perspective of the team.”
The Global Times called Americans “ridiculous” for defending freedom of speech, especially targeting 2020 Democratic candidate Andrew Yang for criticizing China.
“Morey does have the freedom to praise Hong Kong protesters, just like the Chinese fans also have the freedom to abandon the Rockets,” the Times claimed. “The problem is that Morey’s freedom is at the expense of Rockets’ huge commercial interests, which the team is unwilling to give up.”
The newspaper went on to insist that the controversy “has nothing to do with the Chinese government” – even though the Chinese government controls all aspects of the country’s relationship with the NBA and heavily regulates speech, meaning Chinese “fans” say only what the government legally allows them to. The Global Times then dared accuse the United States of using “ideological pressure” against the Houston Rockets to keep them from surrendering to China.
“The biggest lesson which can be drawn from the matter is that entities that value commercial interests must make their members speak cautiously,” the article concluded. “Chinese consumers are not overly sensitive. Wherever it is, touching a raw political nerve is extremely risky.”
The Global Times did not always oppose corporations getting into politics. Last year, it applauded the athletics company Nike for hiring communist former football player Colin Kaepernick as a spokesperson on the heels of his remarks about race in America, which echo the Communist Party’s criticisms of the United States.
“Companies often shy away from politics, but in the commoditized sneaker trade, it’s a risk worth taking,” the Global Times claimed then, predicting, “there will be more like Nike.”
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, painted Morey as a victim of “the constant barrage of western reports” that have “glorified” the Hong Kong protest movement.
“For many Americans, the western methods are the best solution for state governance, while the Chinese system, totally different from its western counterparts, is deemed as a rebel against orthodoxy,” the People’s Daily claimed. “Such biased reports can satisfy many readers, while those who impartially speak for China will be tagged as ‘pro-communism’ types.” The People’s Daily also highlighted the NBA’s craven profit-driven agenda – not as the reason for forcing Morey to apologize for defending democracy, but for the backlash against them:
Western hypocrisy is also a contributing factor. Leaders in the sports, business as well as financial industries and more that side with Morey are all profit-driven. Though always talking about democracy and freedom, it is the financial benefits that they are really craving for. They would do anything to become rich, let it be lies, blackmails, or bullying. There are those American entrepreneurs who have earned a great fortune in China yet still stand with the US politicians in the trade war against China, they are good examples.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry is attempting to take a back seat to the nation’s propaganda outlets and armies of online belligerents.
“I suggest they pay attention to the reaction of the ordinary Chinese people,” foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters on Monday, referring to the NBA. Geng did warn China would “firm and powerful measures to resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and security,” without elaborating.
The NBA initially appeared to stand firmly with the repressive communist regime against its own employee.
“We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable,” the league said in a statement. “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
Commissioner Adam Silver attempted to walk back the statement following near-universal condemnation in America, however, calling the NBA a “values-based organization.”
“I want to make it clear … that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression,” Silver said. He did not specify who exactly Morey is supported by, exactly.