When the Brooklyn Nets played the Toronto Raptors on Friday night, the seats were full of activists wearing black tee shirts that read “I Stand with Hong Kong” and masks over their faces.  This was done as a very effective political statement against the NBA’s ridiculous handling of the Hong Kong protest movement against communist China.

“Producer and activist Andrew Duncan bought 300 tickets to tonight’s Nets vs Raptors game and is hosting hundreds of Chinese pro-Democracy activists to protest the NBA. They’re all wearing ‘Stand with Hong Kong’ t-shirts,” Journalist Yashar Ali tweeted.

Ali also posted a photograph of Hong Kong politician and activist Nathan Law who attended the game. According to Newsweek, “Law is the former chairman of pro-democracy political party, Demosisto, which he co-founded with activist Joshua Wong. Both Law and Wong were jailed last year on a six-to-eight month sentence for an illegal protest, but were released on bail after a few months.”

Newsweek also reported that some people brought their own costumes, “namely Winnie-the-Pooh costumes. The beloved cartoon bear is banned in China, as Pooh has become a symbol to mock Chinese President Xi Jinping.”

I love this so much.  Of course, all of this is in response to the incidents that happened after the General Manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets — Daryl Morey — tweeted in support of democracy, asking people to “stand with Hong Kong.”  After China 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.

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.

Houston star James Hardin made a statement on camera begging China’s forgiveness.  Then, LeBron James – who had made a big deal out of supporting Colin Kaepernick – said of Morley, “He wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke. So many people could have been harmed, not only financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually.”

What?  I am fully aware that 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 is dead to me.  Let them run their league in China…as they lick the fingers of their totalitarian masters. 

Image Credit: Yashar Ali, Twitter

About The Author

Mark Meckler

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 MarkMeckler.com, 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.