Remember when Americans believed in democracy?  Remember when we believed in free speech?  On Friday, the General Manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets — Daryl Morey — tweeted in support of democracy, asking people to “stand with Hong Kong.”

But when Chinese state and social media freaked out over the tweet, the NBA immediately disavowed Morey and even considered firing him.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Why?  Money, pure and simple.  Foreign Policy has the details:

China is a $500 million market for the NBA, and it would do nothing to endanger that revenue. The Rockets’ management discussed firing him and forced its players to trot out lines about how much they loved China while the NBA issued an apology—couched in moderate terms in English and absolutely craven terms in Chinese. An American business, one that prides itself on supporting freedom of speech in America, became an arm of Chinese censorship.

Yes, I know.  The NBA is not the United States government, and they can do whatever they want in terms of the speech of their employees.  Sometimes what a sports league can do and what it should do are not the same.  This is a bigger issue that goes to the heart of what it means to be an American.  We used to believe in the First Amendment.  Now, because of money and political pressure, our sports franchises are turning their backs on free expression:

The NBA isn’t just following Chinese law in China; it’s imposing the Chinese Communist Party’s rules internationally. Such submission goes far beyond the NBA itself. As it happens, last week’s episode of South Park launched a bitingly accurate attack on U.S. film giants like Disney that now make movies to meet the standards of Chinese censors. But myriad corporations have backed China’s attempts to censor and control beyond its borders, from hotel chains like Marriott firing staff who support Tibet to Western airlines adopting Chinese demands on Taiwan to Yahoo handing over the emails of dissidents. Groveling apologies to China have become the norm, even over the most inane misinterpretations.

Even worse, Houston star James Hardin made a statement on camera begging China’s forgiveness.  

Keith Olbermann, the ultra liberal pundit with whim I rarely agree wrote, “The @NBA’s obsequiousness on this, from @joetsai1999 to the smarmy league Statement on @dmorey to this Harden remark, is embarrassing beyond words. To stand up for the democratic freedoms we have here is to risk alienating those who would suppress them. The NBA has failed.”

Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senator from New York, wrote, “No one should implement a gag rule on Americans speaking out for freedom. I stand with the people of Hong Kong in their pursuit of democratic rights. I stand with Americans who want to voice their support for the people of Hong Kong. Unacceptable.”

David French at the conservative publication National Review writes that the President and Congress need to be unified in their support of the protestors…. but that this moment requires more: 

“For a long time, the Communists in China have been able to enjoy the bounties of commercial and cultural engagement with corporate America while continuing their brutal, unjust reign over an oppressed people. American companies have long looked the other way so long as the dollars rolled in. It’s time for that indulgence to end. It’s time for all of the powerful components of American society to send a unified message — hands off Hong Kong, or China will pay a price greater than it may want to bear.

The NBA needs to get its act together, and both the Right and the Left are correct to be outraged by their betrayal of American principles.

Image Credit: Wikipedia

About The Author

Mark was a co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, and served as the national coordinator. He left the organization to work more broadly on expanding the self-governance movement beyond the partisan divide. Mark appears regularly on television in outlets as diverse as MSNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, CNN, Bloomberg, Fox Business and the BBC. He’s highly sought after for the tea party perspective from print and electronic media outlets, from the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, L.A. Times, Washington Examiner, Politico and the The Hill. Mark blogs at, and his opinion editorials regularly run in many of the leading political newspapers both on and offline. Mark has a BA in English from San Diego State University and graduated with honors from University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law in 1988. He practiced real estate and business law for almost a decade. For the last eleven years of his legal career he specialized in Internet advertising law. When not fighting for the future of our nation, Mark is an avid horseman, and lives in rural northern California with his wife Patty and two children.

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