Daryl Morey vs. ESPN

Daryl Morey wrote a pro-Hong Kong tweet and had to retract it, and then both the Rockets and the NBA had to eat crow.  ESPN — part of the Disney empire I might add — has given only tiny, tiny coverage to the whole episode, even though it is a huge story on non-basketball sites.  I’ve been checking the espn/nba site regularly over the last 24 hours, and there is one small link in the upper corner, no featured story at all.

The ESPN pieces I’ve seen seem to be studiously carefully worded and non-incendiary.

Disney of course sells a lot of movies in China and presumably would love to sell more.

Everyone is upset about Morey, I haven’t seen anyone attack ESPN or even mention this.

Should we be so captive of the “endowment effect,” namely that deleting a tweet is more a form of visible “kowtowing” than is downplaying the story in the first place?

Didn’t Bastiat teach us about the seen vs. the unseen?  Right now people are overreacting with respect to the seen.

If you let your emotions be so whiplashed by “the seen,” you will find it harder and harder to understand the unseen.  Do not be a lap dog to the seen!

Addendum, from the comments: “The ESPN story that is on the top-right corner doesn’t even have a byline. It appears to be a reproduced AP story. So ESPN has not assigned a single reporter to produce a story about an NBA event that is on A1 of the NYT.”

And this: “ESPN forbids discussion of Chinese politics…


Yet, none dare call it treason.

The elites are importing Chinese 'values" not exporting American freedoms to China. It makes one want to vote twice for President Trump.

China is about to make thousands of Hong Kong demonstrators disappear from the face of the earth. All of this is a warning to everyone so that they don't dare notice.

A huge Chinese Rockets fan detained for wanting to burn the Chinese flag over the NBA spat.

'"I live and die with my team," the Harden jersey-wearing fan wrote.'


Trump has so far failed to export American freedoms to China while importing China's authoritarian style. It makes one want to impeach President Trump.

The Democrats are worse.

Sad, but true. I'm just going to abstain from voting in 2020. Nothing but bad options imo.

If Trump gets impeached, Bill Weld looks like a pretty solid libertarian Republican.

When Biden gets institutionalized, "Gutsy" Hillary Clinton looks like a pretty solid progressive Democrat.

Do you think her highness wants to get beat-like-a-stepchild for a third time?

Buddy, I know you are in love with her, but even I can't get her to like you back.

"NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league is not apologizing for Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s since-deleted tweet showing support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong"

A lot of comments here didn't age well, obsoleted by waiting a few hours. Nobody waits for all of the facts before chiming in and in the age of social media more discipline is needed before digging in our heels. The NBA supported Morey and his right to free speech and they fully ACCEPT the consequence of free speech. This is how to do it, dear freedom-loving peoples of the world. Here's China's reply:

“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” CCTV said in a statement.


We carried the day.

+1. Voice of reason.

Greed, especially corporate greed but that of individual consumers too, will bring the American experiment to an end.

The brutal, racist, anti-democratic, dictatorial Chinese Leviathan is going to crush us. Divide and conquer.

So that is how America ends. Not With a Bang But A Whimper.

When are you going to come back as the Brazilian Thiago? You are less interesting as an American on a site full of Americans.

I am an American. Mr. Ribeiro left a comment saying he was leaving the site.

Those were all lies, like you usually post. Why did you stop the Brazilian stuff?

Bill Simmons did mention ESPN and their role on his Sunday night podcast...

Agreed that deleting the tweet caused overreaction- and under reaction to the amount of people not defending him explicitly.


What you see is all there is - one of Kahneman's favorite biases!

Good job.

Watched a bit of ESPN TV this morning and they covered it quite a bit. More than i wanted really since I go there for sports news not opinions about politics and free speech. (They already do way too much on sports finance.)

Play the Chinese national anthem at NBA games and dare these Sino-phobic bigots to kneel.

The ESPN story that is on the top-right corner doesn’t even have a byline. It appears to be a reproduced AP story. So ESPN has not assigned a single reporter to produce a story about an NBA event that is on A1 of the NYT.

Well, apart from not wanting to alienate a partner, I'm pretty sure ESPN is trying to stay out of politics more generally these days. The whole Kaepernick thing led them in the direction of thinking "our audience is pretty diverse in their political leanings; let's maybe try to avoid alienating large swathes of it." Which one could consider analogous to the NBA's situation with China right now, but I would just point out that sometimes a difference of degree becomes a difference in kind. In the US, we argue about a mediocre quarterback not standing for the national anthem, whereas there's a tad more at stake in the whole China vs Hong Kong conflict.

Consider that a recently retired famous ESPN commentator would post this, and note that it's a lot different sort of take. Could he still do that if he were on OTL?

Nobody I know is upset about Morey -- they came after the man's job, and he received no support at all. His team's owner, players, and the NBA raced to be the first to denounce him before the troika. Deleting the tweet was his only option, unless he was prepared to volunteer to be martyred and made a pariah in his own profession.

We are upset at how easily Beijing was able to frown and send an entire industry of millionaires, billionaires, and giant corporations in a uniform frenzy of groveling, self-abasement, and self-censorship. Whether Morey made a wise move given his professional position is debatable -- what is horrifying is that Beijing has effectively exported censorship to the United States. They might as well install censors in every Standards & Practices and Comms department in the entertainment industry and be done with it.

Morey has the full support of the NBA. His job was never in danger. Is this blog usually this hyperbolic and spin-driven?

They will do anything for money, including kissing the ass of a murderous regime that has been systematically unraveling American manufacturing.

China has a plan - they want to replace the United States in every way everywhere. In our mad dash to grab the cash, we are going to let them do it.

I will endure the result of ANY and ALL tariffs to defeat the Chinese before it's too late.

It's China's mad dash to grab the cash. We grab the stuff.

I think Morey should be the next commissioner of the NBA.

Many years ago I was a guest of Morey's at a Celtics game in Boston. Among the people in the box was Yao Ming's agent. I was curious as to what kind of deal he got with the Chienese government, as I assumed the communist government pretty much had a claim on all Yao's money. The agent said the deal he got let Yao keep more than if he played in California.

Not so unseen eh?

Well, it's terrible but ESPN is not a news outlet. All China has to do is offer non-Chinese news corporations a little access to the 1.4 billion potential news consumers in China and the greedy bastards will be eating out of China:s hands. They will be turned into PR agents for the brutal Chinese regime.

I am reminded Mao's words as he lured UN troops to Yellow River: "If you want to catch a big fish you have to let him taste the bait."

ESPN is a VERY solid Dem organization. No one is going to rip it.

Maybe the point of all of this is that the Hong Kong protests are futile, because we're not so free over here either.

Ultimately the protests would be futile anyhow, unless one believes the CCP is going to change its stripes in the next 30 years.

Unseen issue is how oversensitive the Chinese govt is about these protests that they would bring out the big guns over something so small. Makes me think they feel incredibly vulnerable.

Kind of reminds one of the political explosion over the undoubted and overwhelming effect the Russians had in changing the course of the 2016 US presidential election.

I wonder the same. Clearly it is not a homogeneous society -- a bit better than the USSR in some ways but still lots of factions. And, as they put control filters on membership to limit the obvious faction fighting within the formal political structured that is a lot of unseen.

Side thought. What if we believe the central party that they are not supporting the technology transfers and those are illegal? Clearly they are happening (or we make the case that the claims are all a western propaganda campaign to discredit China) which the "all powerful central party that broaches not challenges to its authority" is powerless to stop. Should the western powers be suggesting that they talk with the provincial war lords....I mean governors regarding these trade issues?

The only ESPN show worth watching is Pardon the Interruption and both Tony Kornheiser and Mike Wilbon slammed the NBA over there response yesterday. It was a major topic of the show. I suspect an order of magnitude fewer people read the ESPN site vs. watch the channel. I'd bet some other talk shows on ESPN yesterday also ripped the NBA over their poor handling of the incident.

ESPN is the reason we all have cable TV. It's television not a website.

Just turned on Pardon the Interruption right now as it airs today and once again NBA/China is a top story.

Tyler he simply wrong that ESPN is failing to report on this story. Just because he doesn't watch ESPN shows doesn't make them Unseen.

Not sure how wide spread the coverage is, but PTI did a good job I thought. It goes for 4m starting at the 8:30 mark:


I appreciated Ben Thompson's take on it.

We've tolerated too much from China under assumptions that aren't holding. We need to rethink those assumptions.

yepper... sooner better

add one more in agreement.

China bans South Park along with the NBA, adding another element to the showdown

>Should we be so captive of the “endowment effect,”

This isn't the endowment effect; it's the Streisand effect.

The NBA front office acted ineptly, and thus, badly damaged their institutions.

There it is, the Hong Kong basketball league. Morey had a valid point. We cannot have a Hong Kong basketball league without freedom of assembly and speech.

Blizzard is know-towing, too.

Like I’ve said, Trump didn’t start the trade war, America is late to the party and now we’re really seeing who is on who’s side.

How many “Free Hong Kong” stickers will replace “Free Tibet?”

I don't get it. I thought Red China would become a nice democracy because give it our money.

Red China sent a communist infiltrator to bang my 80 year old wife while I watched. Very exciting!

Good point, ESPN and the NBA both suck.

Let's not forget to abolish the NCAA, too, corrupters of post-secondary training institutions coast-to-coast.

I gave up on ALL televised athletics years ago: my emotions are never whiplashed by "the seen", since I gave up on ALL television years ago and rarely do I find text too startling. (Most media-generated affective whiplash comes from the thumping pumping music most of the time, which also I manage to avoid.)

"ESPN forbids discussion of Chinese politics" is an apples and oranges comparison. Daryl Moray posted his Hong Kong tweet on his personal Twitter account.

ESPN as a commercial outlet is only keeping up, then, with public venue NPR, whose production underlings have been keen to censor public commentary in NPR chat rooms for years already, which explains why I no longer listen to NPR or visit its bogus chatrooms with their eager censors ready to steer public discourse at they see fit.

I don't see how the Tyler Cowen that wrote the Bloomberg Opinion piece on Morey could possibly be worked up at all about any of the stuff mentioned in this post to actually notice it, much less express any concern. An "I've changed my mind, again" would have been helpful in reconciling the two views


tyler was for corporate self censorship before he was against it

Now there is something...


Blizzard Activision went much further, suspending a pro gamer from its Hearthstone events for expressing support for the Hong Kong protests. There has been discussion of this in the gaming community though (e.g. https://www.pcgamer.com/blitzchung-removed-from-hearthstone-grandmasters-for-liberate-hong-kong-comments/) as well as news orgs (https://www.vox.com/2019/10/8/20904433/blizzard-hong-kong-hearthstone-blitzchung). There's also at least some boycott activity on Twitter - interesting to see if gaming fans react differently than sports fans or if it's just because of the way the gaming pro was treated.

People know about the unseen, and some have written extensively about it, but the seen is "common knowledge," in the Robin Hanson sense. People can coordinate their outrage, because everyone knows everyone else will be expressing outrage. With riots and other political movements, there is often an initial release of energy in response to the seen, but the "unseen" quickly attaches itself to the list of grievances.

The unseens is that Tyler takes no sides and is careful to say nothing political in his post... Talk about downplaying

National Review had a pretty compelling argument to the contrary:

"Criticism of the Chinese government is forbidden — I don’t mean in China, I mean de facto in the United States for anyone who is part of any institution that has any investment in China. The sports league that prides itself on freedom of expression and social relevance — one so politically correct that it banned the word “owner” because the term allegedly evokes slavery — has no one willing to say Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is right and that people around the world should, as he tweeted, “fight for Freedom” and “stand with Hong Kong.” As of this writing, not a single player, not a single coach, not a single owner has spoken out in support of Morey. You couldn’t get all those guys to agree on any topic in domestic American politics. But for the first forty-eight hours of this controversy, the opinion of everyone associated with the NBA was uniform. Our relationship with China has not made them more like us. It has made us more like them.

Think about it: we have no shortage of professional athletes who are willing to publicly denounce American cops who they deem abusive and brutal. But everybody’s looking at their shoes as the cops in Hong Kong beat the hell out of anybody in a mask and shoot people at point-blank range."


Tyler, follow the Jamelle Hill >> Dan Lebatard >> this story, timeline to connect dots on ESPN's stance. Unless you've changed your mind again, good on them, amirite? Shareholders, fiduciary responsibility or some such

Stephen A Smith, ESPN's biggest on air personality, defended the NBA

What if Morey tweeted support for something along the lines of the Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally and for white nationalism?

What would be the NBA's response to Morey, and what would be everyone else's response to the NBA's response? And how would these reactions differ from the current reaction to China's response to Morey, and why?

Well, if the Trump administration pulled the national TV contracts for the NBA in retaliation, and then the NBA wet itself, you'd have an analogy there.

The analogy would be more like if you had Unite the Right style protests, not in some sleepy college town, but in a major region of the US, involving millions of people for weeks or months. And the protestors would be demanding white nationalist independence from the US, while a prominent Chinese executive for a major cultural product with great influence in the US would publicly express support for the movement.

What if Morey had tweeted: "The NBA should have allowed Donald Sterling his freedom of expression"?

How fast would his career be over?

And rightly so. Sterling was a total scumbag. And his punishment? Being handed a bag filled with $2 billion with a B

How is everyone forming their opinion on this Hong Kong business? I don't really trust the newspapers to tell me who the goodies and baddies are.

Maybe this Hitler guy is not so bad. I mean, who knows?

"I'd do business with that guy." - Prescott Bush

Who is the Hitler in this scenario? And who is Uncle Joe?

An actual case of censorship by a totalitarian government but the free speech absolutists on the right can only dump on the NBA. Have we lost our minds?

What do you mean "we." It was obvious the right had lurched off any pretense of ideological mooring back around the first second Bush administration.

It is an odd look for ESPN. Embrace the voices of the underrepresented in issues of domestic race relations with the police but issue a gag order on commentary of the behavior of an actual police state. If a minority NBA player gets maced or taken in by Chinese police - is that a story? Come on guys.

Is this gag order real or fake news? There's like a bunch of stories on ESPN about the NBA and China.


Blizzard entertainment, a behemoth among the gaming community, just had a similar moment. There's a confluence of separate events in the same mold that is going to make this a pivotal moment in American perceptions toward China.

Only if we're allowed to talk about it.

Of course people are reacting to the seen. The seen is what informs expectations. Things unseen are less able to exhibit chilling effects and come back to bite us.

There is something exceedingly disquieting about a strong organization, one that has no problem flipping the bird to the President of the United States, publicly willing to debase itself. Doing things unseen means that, maybe, if the light of day is shown on their cravenness they will desist. Doing things seen means that they know people will see them as siding with the world's largest operator of concentration camps, anti-choice policies, and police brutality ... and they just don't care.

I mean seriously. 10 buglers who skulk around at night dispossessing people of their property is worrying. Two doing so in broad daylight means that they boldly show that the police are ineffective and that future crime will not be punished. I worry far more about limited crime in daylight when I am overseas, it is a much worse sign of social breakdown.

The NBA got caught doing morally suspect things, they barely cared enough to try incoherent rambling. That is vastly more worried than anything back channel.

Save your moral outrage for China, they are the source of the problem. Save your moral outrage for the US government. They need to do a better job protecting our people and values. The NBA stood up for freedom knowing it will hurt their bottom line and knowing they will lose. They deserve to be commended for making the tough but correct decision.

Tyler has the right idea. The NBA is more of a goodwill ambassador. They are the nice guys that make America look good internationally and that is the role they can play effectively, as smiling faces not political muckrakers. It does not make them less moral to play their part like so. To win over the world, sometimes we play the good cop, sometimes the bad cop. We have plenty of other groups that can play the bad cop.

The NBA stood up for the bottom line. China, at best is maybe a third of revenue, losing the whole market is a a big deal, but a lot less than losing popular support in the US. Particularly as all the sports leagues need congressional favor to prevent anti-trust or similar legal shenanigans from making their whole business model go poof.

This post of Tyler's was chiding that why is everyone reacting more to the NBA's initial missteps than a quiet policy on ESPN which was arguably more direct censorship. And the answer is that something people do in the daylight is a much better predictor of overall climate than skulduggery in the night.

What is the point of a goodwill ambassador?

Seriously, what do we expect another few years or whatever of "goodwill" to accomplish that the last 40 years of such efforts have not? Will these ambassadors stop intellectual property theft? Will they make China less militaristic or soften their stance on the 9 dash line? Are they actually moving Chinese public opinion in any real way?

Further, if we are trying to use them touch the hearts of the Chinese people, exactly what message does a kowtow send? If the billionaire Americans are afraid of the CCP, does that not send a message to the populace? One where our "ambassadors" are instead undermining our culture and our soft power objectives?

The is no point in having a good cop just to have a good cop. If the good cop is making the suspect less likely to cooperate it is time to cut your losses. Again the NBA could have simply said that a private individual was doing private individual things when it first happened. Other NBA personalities could have said, hey the league has not dog in this fight, but me I am all for democracy.

Instead these ambassadors went AWOL and the message they initially conveyed was not what should be an "American" one if we think of them as any sort of "ambassador".

The NBA was craven and, as always, genuflecting to the rich and powerful for whom democracy is inconvenient and China is essential business. Let's not be silly and say they thought about this any other way.

Wrong. Doing business with the Chinese behemoth will make money but will not make China change for the better - it is only going susidize their evil deeds and our eventual demise. Doing business with China has already gutted our manufacturing base. China is not going to become more democratic, more humane, not more respectful of human rights.

Without knowing it, we are in the early stages of a war to determine the future path of humanity. It is a choice between liberal democracy and the dictatorship of the state.

US corporations need to reject Chinese terms and conditions to do business in China which empower the monster.

We individuals need to do our part by accepting the consequences of tariffs and other tactics to slow down the growth of this cancer of the state.

I am game.

My favorite Chinese reaction is the one where they say "how would you like it if I said "fight for freedom, stand with 9-11?".

Putting aside the fact that it's nonsensical (non-native speakers, let's be fair now), they really think the murder of almost 3,000 people in the span of a few hours is somehow equivalent to Hong Kong people fighting for a cause that is explicitly not separatist (through plenty of property damage and a few fist fights but mostly through getting the shit beaten out of them by police and nobody getting killed).

But then again, it's hard to know what's real sentiment - anything contrary to the official perspective is either explicitly censored or self-censored, and even relatively apathetic people often go to extremes to telegraph their conformity and avoid future accusations.

I remember reading an article about how Taiwanese people went from seeing themselves as mostly Chinese to mostly Taiwanese in the span of a few years. Although it seemed like a massive public opinion shift, it was actually the removal of self-censorship under an authoritarian KMT system. A hundred flowers bloomed, and they were not cut down for it.

The salient point here is if Hong Kong becomes a democracy China's CCP dies...any reasonable person understands the chances of that happening are effectively zero...Hong Kong pro democracy demonstrators and their foreign cheer squad are playing with fire ...it will only take one bullet fired at Chinese barracks to set that fire ablaze...I can see pro China provocateurs doing just that...then martial law will be installed in Hong Kong and who would benefit from that?people forget how America acted when Russia tried to install missiles in Cuba..you can mess with Leviathan State but only up to a point

Speaking as a longtime HK resident, I don't think full-on CCP-threatening democracy is the only endgame for the protesters (or, more accurately, the millions who silently tolerate their actions).

This could be a '67 situation where the government responds not with democracy, but by notably better provision of public services, constraint of bad employment practices, etc. The wheels are already in motion here, and Beijing is in the driver's seat - the local tycoons (property developers all) are to significantly increase the supply of land/housing in Hong Kong or risk adverse treatment for their significantly larger investments in mainland China (this is not explicit, but two of the largest players have recently given away land - they are under some serious pressure). This of course will have the end result of significantly decreasing property prices, making the city immensely more livable and reducing the kindling to be burned by future sparks.

In terms of perceptions of government and its legitimacy, that will be more challenging. More democracy is out of the question, but I think there are various ways to adjust perceptions through policies that are perceived as the HK government looking after HK people's interests - for example, shifting to a new lower equilibrium for mainland tourism (ending the "familiarity breeds contempt" policy of the past 10 years). It also won't be long before Lam is shuffled out and they select someone who is a bit more politically astute than a career civil servant. There isn't a deep pool to pick from, but there are several politicians who could certainly do a better job of convincing the public that he/she is on their side, not just forcing orders from above down their throats.

The problem with politics these days is everybody has a prepared script in their heads ready to be launched the moment something pattern matches their preconceived biases. Facts either get discounted or ignored altogether because we have already committed to a position that is not based on reality. We need to pull back from these baser instincts and be more patient waiting for the truth to reveal itself.

Note today's ESPN headline: "Adam Silver supports free speech rights of Rockets GM Daryl Morey"

Will this change your mind? Maybe. Maybe not. Frankly I don't care about convincing anybody about anything. I just want the truth to be out there. That's the limit of my expectations.


The US government already sanctions and blacklists Chinese companies for what they do in China, so people who claim that there's nothing analogous are wrong:


"The Trump administration said Monday that it had added 28 Chinese organizations to a United States blacklist over concerns about their role in human rights violations, effectively blocking those entities from buying American products.

The organizations have been implicated in China’s campaign targeting Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in the autonomous region of Xinjiang, according to a Commerce Department filing."

LOL, so acting against state terrorism and torture and in favor of human rights is analogous to acting AGAINST free speech and human rights?? Is day analogous to night? Nobody is espousing your principle of "what happens in your country stays in your country"

Yes, people are espousing the principle of "what happens in your country stays in your country". People are upset that the Chinese government retaliated against what a US based executive did. That's exactly analogous to the US government retaliating against Chinese companies and executives for what they do in China.

As far as "state terrorism", "torture", "human rights", plenty of people believe the US engages in "state terrorism" and "torture" and that the US does not have a monopoly on defining "human rights". In fact, American "human rights" ideology which invents all sorts of fanciful privileges for sodomites and men who dress up as women and illegal aliens and Muslims is even generally rejected by the American majority.

Why should Disney care?

I can't believe that the guy that just published a book about big business can't grasp the goal is profits.

According to the South China Morning Post: Many Chinese basketball fans declared on the popular sports forum Hupu that they would no longer support the NBA.

“I cut off all family ties with my father after he said that he would continue to support the Houston Rockets,” one commenter said. “The national interest is much more important than family relationships.”

More evidence, if any is needed, of the warped mentality that corresponds with the nation/state.

More evidence, if any is needed, of the warped mentality that corresponds with the nation/state.

I wouldn't discount the possibility of paid comment trolls, though.

Comments for this post are closed