NBA and China: China 1, democracy 0

Will Ortner, Columnist

LeBron James came out this week and finally let everyone know his opinion on the situation between China, Hong Kong and the NBA. Then everything hit the fan. For those of us who were living under a rock this October, let me explain why James needed to comment on China, and why his comments angered people.

China and Hong Kong have been at odds politically for the better part of six months which has led to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

This had nothing to do with the NBA until Oct. 4 when Daryl Morey, the general manager for the Houston Rockets, tweeted out his support for the protestors in Hong Kong. Morey’s tweet immediately went viral around the world. This is a massive problem for the NBA as China is a huge moneymaker for them. China then pulled their sponsorships from the Rockets and canceled TV coverage of the preseason games that were meant to show in the country.

Many people in the U.S. hoped that the NBA would take a stand for the people of Hong Kong and defend their right to protest against the Chinese government. In a statement that should have surprised no one, the NBA distanced themselves from Morey’s comments. Then, the woke people of America immediately denounced the NBA and called upon its stars like James to come to the aid of the people of Hong Kong.

James then came out and did exactly what any smart businessman would do and sided with the group that will make him the most money.

“I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke, and so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say and what we do. Even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too,” James said in an interview with Silver Screen and Roll. 

Of course, this led to outrage in the U.S. with people demanding that LeBron apologize for calling Morey uneducated on the situation. Many fans were also angered that the man with the biggest platform in the NBA didn’t reach out to help the people of Hong Kong in their pro-democracy movement. All of this has made me realize one thing; everyone in this situation should have seen this coming and is stupid for getting themselves involved. 

Everyone that was horrified by the fact that James would side with China should have opened their eyes and saw that this was precisely what he was going to do. While there is no exact figure, Nike makes a revenue of $6 billion in China, according to the USA Today newspaper. James, being a Nike athlete who has many times traveled to China to promote his brand, wants to make sure that he doesn’t lose this money making market. 

So, of course, he is going to softly side with China to keep his brand up in that country. Remember, he owns a movie production company that he wants to partner with Chinese companies to get “Space Jam 2” released in Chinese theaters. He would be a stupid businessman if he didn’t side with China, which would have caused him to miss out on a ton of money. It’s not like those who are now outraged on Twitter would make up the revenue he would lose if he came out against China. Therefore, financially, it makes sense for him to come out and defend China.

Now to James, of course, everyone on Twitter got mad. Many people on Twitter felt that China was repressing the people of Hong Kong and wanted everyone to join their side in the hopes that China would give into the protests. James, as a man of the people, should have seen this coming and never publically opened his mouth. It was a bad move by James and his PR team. James should have privately sided with the side that gave them the most money and publically done nothing. 

This will probably do nothing drastic to James’s public image. He still has done a lot of good things in his community and is a fairly well-liked guy to most of the public. He will need to lay low for a while until all of the social justice warriors on Twitter hear of another injustice going on somewhere else in the world. Hopefully, after reading this humble man’s opinion, we can see why James did what he did.