NBA free speech: 1, China: 0

China’s biggest national TV station, CCTV, refused to air an NBA preseason game between the Houston Rockets and the Toronto Raptors on Thursday. According to Time magazine, the Chinese backlash comes after the Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey tweeted “Fight for Freedom, Stand with Hong Kong,” on October 8.

Now if you haven’t been keeping up with Chinese politics, here’s the rundown: basically Hong Kong proposed a bill back in February that would allow suspected offenders from the city to be extradited to a wide range of countries –– a move that could give China more control over Hong Kong. 

The act has spurred controversy because Hong Kong citizens fear it would lead to government and political corruption from Chinese powers. As a result, protesters have taken to the streets in violent rallies over the past few months in an effort to prevent the bill.

You don’t need to be a Chinese political analyst to know that China doesn’t exactly like disobedience, but I decided to do a little research to understand exactly what freedom of speech rights their citizens actually have. According to the Congressional Elective Commission on China website, freedom of expression is seen “as a privilege, not a right” (a nice red flag from the get-go). To further their 1984-style lifestyle, China also has a specific group of powerful people who are allowed to criticize the government called the “free-speech elite.”

And there are loads of other sketchy Chinese regulations regarding online publications, spoken expression, news outlets, etc. –– all of which can be revoked in “politically sensitive times.”

So obviously, this lack of Hong Kong cooperation has made China quite upset. With the Houston Rockets openly supporting the rebellion over Twitter –– China’s pretty mad at the NBA now too. 

“We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech,” CCTV said.

Although the loss of major broadcasting coverage in China is a huge loss to the NBA, Commissioner Adam Silver is refusing to apologize on behalf of the Rockets (go America for once!). Since the NBA is a private organization, it’s surprising to see support that doesn’t favor financial opportunity. I mean just think about the whole Kaepernick kneeling ordeal –– now players can be fined by the NFL (also a private league) for simply refusing to stand during the national anthem.

“What I also tried to suggest is that I understand there are consequences from his freedom of speech and we will have to live with those consequences. […] Daryl Morey, as general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees,” Silver said.

By standing alongside his employees like Morey, Silver is staying true to free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment even though he doesn’t need to and will likely lose money as a result. In the age where First Amendment rights seem to be constantly bent to fit the needs of big corporations, it’s nice to see the NBA exercise the other side of things for once.

One thought on “NBA free speech: 1, China: 0

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  1. I would agree with you that this was a surprisingly nice gesture from the NBA headquarters. I had only heard a little bit about this, and had no idea that people like Silver were willing to lose out on money in order to protect the freedom of his employees.I feel this is extremely important, especially in the times we are living, and this was a refreshing story to read about from a sports company. I also really enjoyed the image you used for this post, it fits the theme perfectly.


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