October 9, 2019

NBA Kowtows to China

Editor's note: We couldn’t be more proud of one of our teammates, Isaac Rose-Berman, who penned his first op-ed this week in USA Today: “How college students can bridge American divides: 'Study abroad' in Alabama or New York.” Please give it a read, and share far and wide!

“An increasing number of U.S. lawmakers voiced anger on Monday over the NBA’s response to a Houston Rockets official’s tweet backing Hong Kong democracy protests… The National Basketball Association, which has built a huge following and burgeoning business in China, said in a statement it regretted the remarks by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey. A Chinese-language version seemed to go further, with the league saying it was ‘extremely disappointed’ in Morey’s ‘inappropriate’ remarks.” Reuters


Both sides are critical of the NBA:

“The NBA is well within its rights to take advantage of its privilege as a member of the greatest and freest nation in human history to criticize our president and use capitalism to show support or disdain for other states policies. But to bend the knee to China's dictatorship, while protesters in Hong Kong brandish the American flag in their last stand for freedom, is beyond embarrassing. It's disgraceful and disgusting and pathetic…

“As you read this from the comfort of your capitalist country, China holds millions of its Muslim and minority citizens in concentration camps, subjecting its prisoners to organ harvesting, forced abortions, effective slavery, systemic violence, torture, and even murder. The nation forcibly seizes the biometric data of its own citizens and executes thousands every year — at least officially speaking. In the minute you've taken to read this article thus far, Chinese have aborted three unborn baby girls thanks to the dictatorship's gendered social policing. And of course, all of this ignores the utter and complete absence of civil liberties enjoyed by China's 1.4 billion people.”
Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

“Of course, a lot of money is at stake… But that’s the point. China is attempting to enforce its version of the truth all around the world — bullying Chinese-language newspapers in Canada and the United States, patrolling the speech of its students abroad, demanding that foreign airlines and hotel chains wipe Taiwan off their maps. Some of its targets don’t have the wherewithal to stand up to this assault — which is why the NBA’s cravenness is so damaging. With all its financial muscle, its enormous popularity and its moral preening, if the NBA can cave so easily, who will resist the censorship of the Communist dictators?”
Editorial Board, Washington Post



Both sides also accuse the NBA of hypocrisy:

“You might assume that the wokest professional sports league — this is a business, after all, that pulled its all-star game out of Charlotte, N.C., in 2017 because of that state’s anti-transgender bathroom bill — would see human rights, representative democracy and freedom of conscience as core virtues. But you would be wrong…

“Is the issue of gender-neutral bathrooms really as morally urgent as a country that is, as Pete Buttigieg sharply put it, ‘using technology for the perfection of dictatorship?’ This is a worldview that encourages companies to take cost-free stands on the progressive cause of the moment and do absolutely nothing to uphold fundamental progressive values when doing so requires more sacrifice than the time it takes to write up a news release. A worldview that fails to force companies like the N.B.A., Apple, Google and Disney to account for the fact that they are serving as handmaidens to totalitarians is not one worth taking seriously.”
Bari Weiss, New York Times

“The NBA did not issue an apology when LeBron James said President Trump ‘doesn’t give a f---’ about Americans or when San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich called Trump a ‘soulless coward’… Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was not reprimanded for wearing a pro gun-control shirt to the arena last season reading ‘vote for our lives’... But expressing support for Hong Kong was a step too far, apparently. Opposing a country with forced abortions, organ harvesting, sweatshop labor, 1 million Muslims in concentration camps, a ‘social credit score’ tracking all of its citizens and no democratic elections for president is what makes the NBA queasy.”
Tom Joyce, Washington Examiner



Finally, many are calling for coordinated responses to push back against Chinese government demands:

“Public shaming of organizations such as the NBA helps raise the cost in the United States for its ignominy in China… The next step requires American businesses to coordinate responses to protect an organization when one of its affiliates voices an opinion that displeases Beijing. What’s bad for the NBA in China is bad for Google, too. The Trump administration has the political will — in May 2018, it called Beijing’s ordering U.S. airlines to change how they refer to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau as ‘Orwellian nonsense’ — but lacks the discipline, attention and integrity… It falls to an American chamber of commerce or another nonprofit to teach the American business community that when an individual company doesn’t yield, it will afford them all more space to maneuver.”
Isaac Stone Fish, Washington Post

“This event is starkly clarifying. And it should give conservatives and progressives pause, because China’s model of imposing Xi Jinping thought is a direct and equal threat to us. If Chinese authoritarianism is able to spread into American life through corporate power, because corporations are set up to serve shareholders and have trouble thinking ethically beyond that, then perhaps it is the duty of the state to interrupt the exchange mechanism through which this corruption proceeds. If China is forcing American corporations to impose Xi Jinping thought, maybe it’s time to choose. No more basketball camps in the shadow of concentration camps… To hell with Chairman Xi, and to hell with every business venture that makes others too afraid to say likewise.”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The left supports eliminating the electoral college, arguing that all votes should count equally regardless of which state they're from.

“The owner of the Rockets, Tilman Fertitta, raced for the traditional refuge of international capitalists — the insistence that business can be segregated from political considerations…

“But it should be perfectly clear that playing basketball in China is political. Last year, the N.B.A. staged a game in South Africa for the explicit purpose of celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela. When the N.B.A. goes to China, that’s a statement, too. It means that the N.B.A. has weighed China’s human rights abuses against China’s potential as a source of revenue, and it has decided that it can live with state policies like the detention of hundreds of thousands of Chinese Muslims in the northwestern province of Xinjiang.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

Globalization is exporting Chinese authoritarianism rather than American democracy… First, simply on a technical level, it turns out that utopian globalization proponents were massively understating the feasibility of building a censored version of the internet. Second, they underrated the extent to which the entirety of the modern technology industry would end up looking like a massive surveillance machine… the same mechanisms that let internet ad brokers know I’ve been considering buying a new wallet and planning a family beach vacation in Mexico this coming winter can (and are) used by authoritarian regimes for political purposes… this isn’t how globalization was supposed to play out.”
Matthew Yglesias, Vox

The NBA should leave China… If Hong Kong is nonnegotiable, there’s nothing to discuss. The subject will become more sensitive, not less, if the Hong Kong police move from tear gas and rubber bullets to the routine use of live ammunition, or if the People’s Liberation Army moves in. Would the NBA muzzle its employees then?... Why not take the stand before it gets to that?... China may have 1.4 billion people and $4 billion worth of a basketball market, but only the NBA has NBA basketball. That is nonnegotiable in its own way, if the league is willing to stand up for itself.”
Tom Scocca, Slate

But “the biggest question is whether $20.5 trillion is actually a plausible estimate of how much her plan would cost… Estimates from the nonpartisan Rand Corporation, the conservative-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and the center-left Urban Institute have each placed the 10-year cost of a single-payer plan at $31 trillion to $34 trillion… Reimbursement-rate cuts as big as Warren is envisioning would be extremely politically difficult to pass through Congress—and could lead to hospital closures or service cutbacks if they do… The reality remains that most countries around the world have established and maintained quality universal-health-care systems that cost less than even Warren’s proposal… The problem, of course, is that Warren and other single-payer advocates are not writing on a clean page, but rather seeking to reconfigure an enormously complex structure that consumes one-sixth of the national economy and employs hundreds of thousands of people.”
Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic

Others note that “[Warren] has provided more detail on Medicare financing than Sanders has. She has also provided more overall policy detail, including on the taxes she would raise, than Joe Biden or Pete Buttigieg. And her Medicare plan comes much, much closer to paying for itself than various Republican tax cuts. I wish the conservatives complaining about her plan applied the same rigor to their own ideas… The biggest weakness of Warren’s approach is that it tries to bulldoze through the sizable public anxiety about radical changes to the health care system. Warren would not let people opt into Medicare, a wildly popular idea. She would force them to join… she needs to come up with a reassuring transition plan soon.”
David Leonhardt, New York Times

Many note that “Biden’s opposition to [marijuana] legalization… puts him at odds with the great majority of Democrats, 75-plus percent of whom back legalization. Biden’s opposition even puts him at odds with the median Republican, with polls showing that even a majority of Republicans support legalization. Politically, then, legalization should be low-hanging fruit… Yet Biden is not quite there… It’s an especially bad look for Biden. He has a long record of pushing for punitive criminal justice and drug policies — not just supporting but actually writing many of the laws in the 1980s and ’90s that helped shape America’s modern war on drugs. For Biden to hang on to marijuana prohibition, then, just reinforces one of the major concerns that criminal justice reformers like Booker have about him.”
German Lopez, Vox

Others argue that “Biden was almost the only one on the stage who talked like a normal person. There was a point near the end of the debate when he was talking about getting men involved in stopping domestic violence and he said that we need to keep ‘punching’ at it… I knew that the twitterati and the analysts would tut tut. Ol’ Joe is just out of touch! He doesn’t know you can’t use words like that. Meanwhile, every non-political junkie watching the debate thought there was nothing wrong with this. Biden was just using ordinary language, not worrying too much if it was fully approved by the woke brigade.”
Kevin Drum, Mother Jones

From the Right

The right sees Buttigieg and Biden as the winners of the debate, and criticizes the answers on housing and foreign policy.

From the Right

“When Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn came to the U.S. after years of captivity in the USSR, he professed amazement at how U.S. journalists who had exhibited cowardice when in the Soviet Union were posing as courageous lions of the press in the more congenial setting of the United States. I get the same feeling about the National Basketball Association… There’s a difference, though, between the journalists Solzhenitsyn held in contempt and the NBA executives. The journalists feared for their physical well being in the Soviet Union (we can’t all be Solzhenitsyn). The NBA execs are fearful only of losing money.”
Paul Mirengoff, Power Line Blog

“The list of corporations willing to toe the Chinese line is quite long… Marriott has fired staff who expressed support for Tibet. Delta apologized to China last year after listing Taiwan and Tibet as separate countries on its website. Versace apologized to China last month over a T-shirt that suggested Hong Kong and Macau aren’t part of China. (Versace not only stopped making the shirt, it destroyed all the ones it hadn’t sold.) Hollywood dares not make a big-budget film these days without clearing it with Chinese censors. Indeed, groveling before China has become commonplace in the corporate world…

“Given that reality, we need to rethink the relationship between economic power and national security, and consider adjusting national economic policy and corporate regulations accordingly.”
John Daniel Davidson, The Federalist

“It's easy for the NBA to be all sanctimonious about speech when it means a star player calling an unpopular American president a ‘bum.’ But when it comes to a general manager having the temerity to tweet ‘Fight for Freedom,’ suddenly [commissioner Adam] Silver cowers and a U.S. sports league has to impose totalitarian China's censorship rules on one of its executives. Since, clearly the NBA only values money, above all else, if you care about freedom and are incensed by this decision, then there is only one way to send a message to them — by denying them any of yours.”
Philip Klein, Washington Examiner

“Did Bill Taylor deliver the smoking-gun testimony House Democrats need to justify their drive for impeachment? Or did GOP Rep. John Ratcliffe ‘destroy’ the former Ukraine charges d’affaires in two minutes flat, as Nunes claimed last night?… The only way to really know what happened is to see the transcripts, and the serial leaks out of the SCIF make Schiff’s security arguments a bad joke… No one should trust any of these reports until we see the transcripts. In fact, no one should put any confidence in this process until it gets conducted openly, honestly, and fairly. House Republicans might have been conducting a stunt this morning, but the purpose of that stunt is spot-on. The House Democrats’ star-chamber approach is an affront to justice and due process, and their conduct in using selective leaks to goose public opinion from these proceedings is nothing short of despicable.”
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

It’s worth noting that “conservative ideas were much more popular when not associated with the Republican party. In Washington State, voters narrowly rejected bringing affirmative action back to state contracting and university admissions…

“In Seattle, the self-proclaimed socialist city-council member appears to have lost her seat to a pro-business challenger. In Colorado, voters gave fiscal conservatives a big win by rejecting letting the state keep any tax revenues above the state spending cap, money that the state Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights currently guarantees as refunds to taxpayers. In Sussex County, N.J., voters approved, by a 2-to-1 margin, a referendum directing the local freeholder board to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. (Washington, Colorado, New Jersey — notice these are places where Republican candidates have had no luck lately.)”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

“If a dozen drones or missiles can do the kind of damage to the world economy as did those fired on Saturday—shutting down about 6 percent of world oil production—imagine what a U.S.-Iran-Saudi war would do to the world economy. In recent decades, the U.S. has sold the Saudis hundreds of billions of dollars of military equipment. Did our weapons sales carry a guarantee that we will also come and fight alongside the kingdom if it gets into a war with its neighbors?… the nation does not want another war. How we avoid it, however, is becoming difficult to see. John Bolton may be gone from the West Wing, but his soul is marching on.”
Patrick Buchanan, The American Conservative

Others note, “I’d hate to be a Democratic member of Congress trying to convince Joe Sixpack that this is a whole new ballgame. The transcript shows Trump being Trump and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky trying to ingratiate himself with the big dog by, for instance, mentioning that he stays at Trump hotels. Trump’s conversation is typically scattershot, wandering all over the field, leaving a reasonable listener puzzled about what the takeaways are supposed to be…

“I think Joe Sixpack’s response is going to be a hearty shrug. After all that has emerged about Trump so far, his approval rating is closely tracking Obama’s approval at the same point in his presidency. To get Mr. Sixpack’s attention you are going to have to do better than this.”
Kyle Smith, National Review

President Trump should be happy. As much as Warren is articulate, obviously intelligent, and energetically supported by Democrats, she would also be far easier to defeat than Joe Biden… Considering Trump's economy, the president is well placed to defeat Warren.”
Tom Rogan, Washington Examiner

A libertarian's take

“After adding in the ultra-millionaire’s tax and factoring in the other capital taxes Warren wants to levy — on financial transactions, on unrealized capital gains, on corporations — we’d be asking every billionaire to hand over more than two-thirds of their total wealth over a 10-year period. If the government actually managed to collect it, their fortunes would rapidly erode — and so would tax collections. The plan might be a good way to smash wealth, but it’s a terrible way to fund the nation’s health-care system…

“If Warren makes it to the White House, and tries to pass a plan, the Congressional Budget Office will eventually attach more reasonable numbers, with more defensible assumptions, sparking an even more spectacular political blowback than the one that greeted Friday’s announcement. Outside of the progressive Twitterati, there isn’t necessarily an enormous constituency for spending $20.5 trillion to herd every American into a national health insurance program; there would be even less support for spending what Warren’s plan would actually cost.”
Megan McArdle, Washington Post

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.