Opinion: The NBA is Conducting Business as Usual
The game is supposed to supersede all nonsense, politics and rhetoric. The NBA is a global game with global superstars from different countries. Yao Ming took the league by storm and he hails from China. Giannis Antetokounmpo became the league’s MVP and became a superstar on a small market team –he was born in Greece and took over.
The NBA’s global preseason games are designed to spread goodwill and promote the game of basketball to one of the most powerful economies in the world: China. This is what the NBA has done for years. That is until one tweet changed everything. One tweet changed perceptions of a franchise, corporation and its players to a country to the point where China flexed its muscles. China shut down the one power that the NBA is used to having, the media narrative. Darryl Morey, the Houston Rockets’ General Manager decided to hop in another country’s business by sending a tweet in which infuriated many and caused pure hate and discontent. How?
He discussed China and Hong Kong. He discussed the protests which is taboo for guests there. Too many they feel that is not wrong. However, his timing was wrong and his business sense is lacking. It is not good business to start a firestorm with a tweet unless you are Donald Trump, but Darryl Morey does not have the gall or the fortitude to defend himself from this madness he created. He ducked. He hid under an apology.
The evidence is overwhelming. This is the general manager of the franchise that fielded China’s megastar, Yao Ming. He represents a brand and a global company. His tweets had no disclaimer that it represents him, and you guessed it, China reacted. They shut down the media and took their power away. Everyone is upset. The commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, scrambled to fix the damage that was done, but it was too late. This general manager did not understand the climate of the country that they were a host in, thus, it affected the bottom line. Teams could not perform community service acts. They were supposed to help build schools and have them named after the teams. This publicity loss cannot be quantified. And guess what?
He will receive no punishment. No fines. Not even from the owner of the team. Not even from the league.
But hey, it’s shut up and dribble right…
If a player were to conduct themselves this way, the NBA without hesitation would have fined a player a minimum and issued a statement. Even the superstars are wondering what is the punishment for this transgression. In the real world, if a person who represented a company was to conduct himself or herself in that manner, they would have been fired, forced to retire and even be subjected to heavy levies. You can’t have it both ways.
Now, because China is a great consumer of basketball, the NBA bowed down to their demands and forgot about their players. Since 2006, the NBA has benefited from its involvement in China to the tune of $500 million from ticket prices, merchandise sales and even rights to television and advertisement. The most famous superstar in the league, Lebron James, said that Darryl Morey was misinformed. No, he wasn’t. He spoke his mind, Craig! James essentially placed on the league to handle business accordingly.
The players had to remain silent in order to lessen the blow. The blow is estimated at $4 billion.
So now what, let us get our players and citizens back in the US without creating a Ball family/UCLA situation. Then, something has to be done. Owner statements and NBA apologies won’t cut it. Something must be done to account for this. The players will soon demand it. Will the NBA fold or will the commissioner and the owner fix the situation? After all, there are billions of dollars on the line, along with free speech.
Decisions. Ramifications. Apologies. Money. Choose one! We will be watching this unfold further.