The NBA, Daryl Morey, and China

I changed my mind on this issue after pondering it for a while, here is my Bloomberg column on the topic.  Here is one bit:

True to form, I find myself in disagreement with the consensus: Morey committed a blunder, and deleting the tweet was the correct thing to do.

And more:

American politicians and leaders should offer greater support for the more liberal sides of the Hong Kong protest movement. But not all businesspeople are in the same position, especially if they are actively involved with China or other countries whose behavior is under consideration.

To provide a slightly more neutral example, the NBA is currently trying to market its product to India. In the meantime, I don’t think NBA executives should be tweeting or commenting about the status of Kashmir. Those strictures should hold even if the tweets or remarks are entirely correct.

There is simply too much tension between the fiduciary obligations of the potential speakers and the issues under consideration. For better or worse, the NBA is committed to a major expansion in China, and it is entirely normal for the association — like any other business — to demand that its executives do not conduct diplomacy, engage in negotiations or make political commentary on the side. The NBA’s mistake was simply to insist on this in far too clumsy and public a manner.

What they should do is simply pull the training camp out of Xinjiang, no squawking required.  By the way, here are much better American corporate targets than the NBA.  And the close:

As for the practical question of where things go from here, I’ll be watching to see what NBA players — most of all the stars, many of whom have contracts with Chinese companies — say next.


This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.

There is much more at the link, more than usual.  Many of you love the doux commerce thesis, namely that trade ties encourage peace among nations.  Yes that is usually true, but sometimes the role of the corporations is to promote lies, or at least not speak the truth too loudly.  That is part of the Montesquieu bargain, whether one likes it or not.  You are installing an intermediary with incentives for cooperation and good will, not an arbiter of truth.

We are overreacting on this one because it is our main geopolitical rival — China — forcing a major American institution, namely the NBA, to eat crow, because of the sequencing of events.  But in reality, there is nothing wrong with a sports league that steers its major executives away from commenting on external politics and that is very often the norm in the corporate world, in countries both nasty and nice.


"American politicians and leaders should offer greater support for the more liberal sides of the Georgia Abortion-rights movement. But not all moviemakers are in the same position, especially if they are actively involved with Georgia or other states whose behavior is under consideration."


Any little comment can trigger the Chinese. Sad that the world's top 2 economies are inhabited by legions upon legions of snowflakes.

I support China's attempts to stop American leftist organizations like the NBA. #RedStates4RedChina #ChinaInvestigateBidenPlz

This is the lamest of the anonymous incarnations.

Not me.

I don't know which is worse, the crazy idea that you can decode every pseudonym, or to do it while hiding behind ever changing pseudonyms.

It's actually just me again.

I think that is an impersonator.

My initial reaction was that Morey isn't an NBA executive, he's a Houston Rockets executive. But as countless angry Chinese have pointed out, the Donald Sterling Precedent nullifies that distinction.

Could people in China see the original tweet? I thought the firewall would block that.

No, people in China can't see the original tweet. The countless angry Chinese are employees of their Ministry of Truth.

Who knew that a state dependent on keeping its people under tight control could be so brittle? All that was necessary was to apply pressure at the right places. I wonder if some in the Politburo are beginning to doubt 21st Century Mao?

I was born in Communist Czechoslovakia and have some experience.
Totalitarian states are very brittle, because they have a long list of previous problems and unusually stable leadership. They know that people hold a long line of grudges against them, sometimes going back for decades. And inability to get rid of your politicians through the ballot box means that the potential of violent revolution is somewhere under the waterline all the time.
Letting go of total control could be extremely dangerous, not least because there also are mutually hostile internal factions within the seemingly single Party.
Every single tyrant fucker knows how Ceausescu and his wife ended.

There's an old joke I'm sure everyone knows.

A man asks a woman if she would be willing to sleep with him if he pays her an exorbitant sum. She replies affirmatively. He then names a paltry amount and asks if she would still be willing to sleep with him for the revised fee. The woman is greatly offended and asks, "What kind of woman do you think I am?" The man replies, "We’ve already established that. Now we’re just haggling over the price."

I'll think of this the next time the NBA or its related entities complain about Conservatives.

You should complain about conservatives now. They aren't lifting one finger to help Hong Kong because they back Dear Leader's plan for trade with the enemy. They don't even pretend to care about human rights when money is on the line. Think about this next time conservatives complain about free speech or Marxism.

Tyler is right that companies don't need to be architects of geopolitical change. But someone should have spine in this regard.

I was feeling a bit of angst yesterday, as I looked back at Lindsay Graham's prescient 2016 warnings about Trump, his transition to full toady by 2019, and his weak reaction to abandoning the Kurds this week.

Maybe his, and the party's, soul really was eaten bite by bite.

And now we are withdrawing from Open Skies?

The stuff the deplorables have wrought.


China - NBA - Tweet - Lindsey Graham - 2016 tweets - Trump - Kurds

Jesus Christ

Dear Leader -> Dear Leader

But if anything deserves disgust, it might be that we should talk about the NBA instead.

(The President of the United States just called the United States Congress "a totally compromised kangaroo court" but let's not tie that to the rise of oligarchs across the world, no matter what we do.)

Maybe, but the statement was accurate

Six degrees of TDS.

I think if anyone has a right to righteous indignation today, it's me.

It wasn't so long that this group was "authoritarianism, lol," "Russia, lol" and "constitutional crisis, lol."

And then on the day when the President rejects the very concept of Congressional oversight, you are "TDS."

I guess you fuckers are just on board.

You know, you're right. It is all very outrageous. Somebody should do something about it, like storm the White House. Go get 'em, anonymous, we'll be right behind you!

If you have a Republican Representative or Senator, a mere phone call would help.

No, we're way passed that; we need direct action! Civil disobedience! Don't stop till they tase you!

There is a real sickness in our society. We do have a genuine constitutional crisis, by a foolish authoritarian, who is giving unexplained handouts to Russia.

And the answer from the rank and file Right is that it's a partisan problem, the Democrats have a responsibility solve it, but you'll fight them every inch of the way.

Frickin' Lindsey Graham think's his best move today is to give Giuliani a forum in the Senate.

Will it really come to this? Will the Republicans really shred the Constitution because Democrats are on "the other side?"

Today it looks like it.

Unhinged raving homeless-esque rant aside, for the moment.

What does any of this have to do with the National Basketball Association?

I didn't bring in Trump, bob did with "They aren't lifting one finger to help Hong Kong because they back Dear Leader's plan for trade with the enemy."

I'm saying the connections are deeper than that. Xi is a full blown authoritarian leader, Trump sure as hell is a would-be one.

And you don't want to discuss that, want to call that homeless ranting, because you have no civic responsibility whatsoever.

lol, you are even offended by civic responsibility in others.

You’re unhinged. You’re the mirror image of the Native American dude that sent fake bombs last year.

What percentage of your waking hours are spent solely focused on one specific person? 90%?

"Kremlin-directed operatives opened champagne when Trump won in 2016 and "uttered almost in unison: ‘We made America great,'" according to communication in a new Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russia election interference"

You piece of shit.

Yeah don’t send any packages alright?

Your paranoid delusions don’t need to bleed into the real world.

I think if anyone has a right to righteous indignation today, it's me.

More proof that a deranged, selfish ego hides behind sanctimonious indignation.

“They called me mad. They called me insane. They called me looney! They were right.”

That's incredibly self-indicting.

You've made a little clubhouse, nay an entire political movement, where defending the constitution is .. just crazy.

I mean look at you. "Nobody talk about Trump!" has become "Nobody talk about the constitution!"

Yes. it's the height of civic responsibility to constantly deliver off-topic harangues about the president on an economics blog (and expect different results).

“They called me mad. They called me insane. They called me looney! They were right.”

You guys are going down hard.

Because you have no proactive case that what you or Trump are doing is good for America.

Your only idea is that no one should talk about the bad shit going down.

Deplorables then, and now.

Yes when adults are having a conversation about basketball and they prevent a homeless lunatic with Tourette’s syndrome from derailing every thread with his personal obsessions and political paranoias, it means those adults are the enemy.

And you’re just a few more links about your personal obsessions away from convincing everyone else, who just happen to be having an unrelated conversation.

Your conduct is the equivalent of mass emailing dick-pics to women you’ve never met. No one else wants to see it, its totally irrelevant to whatever those women are doing, but you persist anyways.

"They aren't lifting one finger to help Hong Kong "

There is absolutely nothing any American can do to help Hong Kong.

Do you disagree? If so, what are those thing(s)?

Is a visa pipeline possible? If believers in democracy face a dark future, give them options.

We can issue an ultimatum. Hands off Hong Kong or endure the consequences. It Red China will behave like a totalitarian refime, then it should be treated as such. As Reagan once said, "We cannot buy our security, our freedom from the threat of the bomb by committing an immorality so great as saying to a billion human beings now enslaved behind the Iron Curtain, ‘Give up your dreams of freedom because to save our own skins, we're willing to make a deal with your slave masters.’"

What if like...

anonymous has been another Thiago character the entire time?

We could provide arms to the rebels. If there were 200,000 AR-15s in Hong Kong, the situation there would be rather different. China smuggles illegal weapons to USA all the time. I say we return the favor.

"endure the consequences"

Ok, what "consequences" do you propose?

A trade ban for starters. And, if Red china squashes the Hong Kong movement, a military intervention.

I agree with the last paragraph. A lot of the time, talk about freedom, human rights, etc. is a veneer for US geopolitical interests. For example, many people are calling for US businesses to boycott China over the Chinese government’s human rights abuses, yet at the same time want to make it illegal for US businesses to boycott Israel over the Israeli government’s human rights abuses on the grounds that such a boycott would constitute discrimination on the basis of national origin and collective punishment. These two positions are irreconcilable and explained only by China being a rival and Israel being an ally; if it’s discrimination to target all Israelis (or worse, all Jews) over the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians, it is also discrimination to target all Chinese over the Chinese government’s treatment of Hong Kong and Chinese minorities. (To be clear, I do not support any laws against boycotts—people should be allowed to do business with whoever they want—but this sort of discrimination should be socially censured).

For another example, it was front-page news for days when the Hong Kong police shot (non-fatally) a protestor, while at around the same time Iraqi police (with the government we installed) shot and killed over a hundred protestors and this was barely reported. This contrast was jarring, and again the most likely explanation seems to be that we have trade tensions with China, but installed the government in Iraq.

I think people should stick to criticizing human rights of their own government and advancing freedom in their own country; to the extent they criticize other countries, they should never hold such countries to a higher standard than their own. Otherwise, mixing human rights with geopolitics becomes inevitable and serves only to discredit the whole idea of human rights.

This is the most intelligent comment I’ve ever seen. I wish more people are able to think independently like you and stop believing what the media wants you the believe.

Every person, corporation, country is out for themselves. We can run the country on democracy but world isn’t run by UN (which also isn’t a democracy).

People should stick to criticizing human rights of their own government? That doesn't make sense. What does it matter where I live, if my criticism of the Chinese government is accurate? Why can't I criticize *both* the Chinese government *and* my own government?

It's especially a bad idea for China. People living in China *can't* criticize the human rights of their own government, because they don't have access to free media. So saying people should only criticize their own governments is like saying any government that controls its own social media should never be criticized.

People should only be allowed to criticise themselves, and only in private

+1. That's why the anti-BDS movement has been full of crap. Both Israel and China treat their minorities like subhumans and both deserve boycotts or sanctions until they shape up.

Israel's minorities are a bit troublesome and violent, if you haven't noticed.

China’s minorities, and most of its protesters want basic democratic liberal things, like more freedom. Or if you will, freedom from the state.

Israel’s minorities want more freedom to kill Jews, freedom To, if you will.

I'd be violent if I were one of China's minorities, unless I was in a concentration camp or under constant scrutiny

"I think people should stick to criticizing human rights of their own government and advancing freedom in their own country; to the extent they criticize other countries, they should never hold such countries to a higher standard than their own. Otherwise, mixing human rights with geopolitics becomes inevitable and serves only to discredit the whole idea of human rights."

Definitely look to your own backyard first.

But I don't see that this precludes a wider looking support for human rights.

We are citizens of nations first, but the planet second.

Alternatively, one can evaluate different situations on their own particular merits, and not be suckered into demands for a false consistency, particularly by people for whom every foreign-policy discussion somehow leads back to a denunciation of Israel.

China is apparently a 4 billion dollar market for the NBA. Is there no price that is too much to as cost for token support of democratic protestors? I'm not being facetious. Is there a dollar loss figure where it becomes OK for a corporation to kowtow to an undemocratic regime?

But I do wonder how much of that 4 billion dollars not condemning Morey would have cost the NBA. Did China actually threaten to block NBA expansion if they didn't condemn Morey? Wouldn't China risk blowback from their youth in restricting their access to the NBA?

I suggest reading Net’s owners letter regarding China’s third rail. Basically any hints of separatism is as politically sensitive as say... racism or sexism due to history and media/government education.

Is democracy separatism? If that is true then China must realize that Taiwan being a democracy makes them separate from the mainland. They contradict themselves.

Chinese netizens are pretty unified on boycotting NBA. There will be virtually zero blowback from youth and this should not surprise you if you understand Chinese history and culture.

As for dollar figure, it’s a tough question. Do you prefer Consequentialist theory or virtue and deontological theories? Do you think it is acceptable to sacrifice 1 to guarantee saving 10 or is it moral for everyone to potentially die? Do we sacrifice everyone’s well being for benefit of one? I don’t know the answer but I implore you to see the world beyond good and evil, right and wrong.

Chinese netizens are not unified on boycotting the NBA at all. The one thing about netizens, they are never unified on anything. Unless, maybe, any dissenting opinions are deleted from social media. Then the internet might *appear* to have a consensus, even though real beliefs could be totally different.

No. If this were the case, there wouldn't need to be this United Front uproar where online stores are returning zero results when you search for Houston Rockets gear. Channels wouldn't need to suddenly drop NBA exhibition games or pre-game press events. The vast coordination reveals this has nothing to do with consumer demand or citizen preferences, and everything to do with sending a signal of political loyalty.

Japanese automakers are doing just fine in China, and Japan still controls a bunch of contentious sea rocks. The auto sales only lagged when the Chinese gov decided it wanted them to.

As for dollar figure, it’s a tough question. Do you prefer Consequentialist theory or virtue and deontological theories? Do you think it is acceptable to sacrifice 1 to guarantee saving 10 or is it moral for everyone to potentially die? Do we sacrifice everyone’s well being for benefit of one? I don’t know the answer but I implore you to see the world beyond good and evil, right and wrong.

The NBA's behavior may be entirely understandable from a profit perspective, but it is likewise perfectly acceptable for others to criticize the NBA for its calculations, and to point out that its other famously virtuous political stances have been shown up as unprincipled preening.

What's wrong with profiting from internment and surveillance of Muslims and Tibetans or Hong Kongers shot by their own police? America is all about profit. Are we a bunch of snowflaker virtue signalers who hate free trade now?

I like your article but it’s too clever by half IMO. Namely the fact that it shushes the American emotional response while granting full weight to the Chinese one. Soft bigotry of Lowe expectations.

Sometimes a business has to pick a side and the American one was taken for granted.

Supposedly "We hold these truths to be self-evident", except when there is money to be made, then it's the race to the bottom. Worse yet, China is the antithesis of American, indeed Western liberal values. China is a brutal, statist, dictatorial, racist nation dominated by the Han people. Imagine if American industries enabled the NAZI regime in 1941 because it was just good business and company men had to keep their mouths shut because they had fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders.

But US foreign policy has always been about races to the bottom whenever there's money to be made! The whole concept of US- Middle East relations is and has always been "We'll ignore your human rights abuses if you continue doing business with us".

But the cost-benefit analysis of self-censorship is a no-brainer. We censor ourselves on a small range of things and get access to the largest market in the world. We don't censor ourselves and win a few virtue-signalling brownie points from western liberals (very few of whom are going to change their consumption decisions based on this).

If we want to change this, it should become the case that any company that ever says "We apologise for hurting the feelings of the Chinese people" should be maligned as much as one that says "We think sexual harassment is a healthy part of work culture" or "We want to re-segregate based on race".

I'm not sure if it would do anybody any good (and it could do a lot of harm), but it would make for an interesting dynamic.

I censor myself for sex. But don't tell my wife.

I totally understand China is a huge market for NBA and it’s a different country and it’s not democratic and bully. However, NBA could find a better way to handle it, you cannot portray yourself and progressive and embrace your players when they voice their anger in presence of injustice in America and throw your executives under the bus right after a Chinese official calls foul.
LeBron James called Donald Trump, president of The USA, a “bum” and Steph Curry called Trump “an ass”. I agree with both superstars but many people in America said they crossed the line at the time, the NBA said they were expressing their opinion and had the right to do it, why in the world are they in panic now? I’m sure they could find someone to write a note defending free speech while being sympathetic with offended people in China.

Isn't Trump really a fake nationalist? He's done nothing to protect American companies like Marriott, Apple, Google, Facebook, and now the NBA against totalitarian China. He has the wind to his back on this issue but he can only fart in the general direction.

As I said in 2016, Trump was more than a friend of oligarchs, he is a would-be oligarch.

All his recent moves confirm that, put the cherry on top.

This makes no sense, except as a choice for the "Russian system" over western democracy.

This is a warning pal. Conspiracy theories about Trump instituting an coup is both literally insane and wildly off topic on a thread about the National Basketball Association.

Trump is indeed a fake nationalist. If he was a real nationalist, he would have outlined the most important WTO rules China is violating, given them 12 months to comply, or receive the Cuba treatment. Instead Trump has wasted nearly 3 years negotiating with liars.

This touches on the NBA's real problem -- that is that it is only selectively outraged / censorious, and thus, appears to implicitly support the statements it allows to happen e.g., the offensive (to borrow a term) statements by the other high-profile NBAers you mention above.

Ditto with the NFL's response to Kaepernick. If they either banned all messages or took a consistent view that statements 'don't necessarily reflect the views of the League,' it would have been a 1 day story.

I'm not saying the NBA acted illogically here. It just disgusts me to think about watching an NBA game right now. I am rooting for Hong Kong a hell of a lot more than I am rooting for the Warriors.

Hearthstone is even worse, for those of you who follow e-sports. They just banned a *player* for making pro-Hong-Kong statements. How can I watch this competition, knowing that the highest level of competition has been kicked out for expressing a political opinion I agree with?

How would you feel about the integrity of the game if the NBA started banning players who expressed pro-Hong-Kong opinions?

If you bought anything made in China, you are no better than NBA.

That doesn't make any sense. Are you paid by the word?

This reminds me of when I bought a "Free Hong Kong" t-shirt, and the reviews were full of nonsense like

"One star. This t-shirt sucks. It fell apart immediately. Also Hong Kong is a part of China"

Okay, that just doesn't make sense as a review because if you believed that, why would you have bought the t-shirt?

This post assumes it is morally okay to conduct business in China in the first place.

This article assumes you don’t bite the hand that feed you.
You are welcome to boycott China, be morally just and toss your iPhone, just like they do to Rockets.

I find ytg89's posts are a lot more fun if you read them in your head with a strong Chinese accent.

I imagine ytg89 enjoys a little soy sauce on his plate of kung pao dog.

The story is less that the NBA wilts in the face of Chinese outrage, but that the outrage is so unified, potentially deadly, and in accord with CCP desires. Plenty of other western businesses have set the pattern, whether on Hong Kong, Xinjiang, or Taiwan. The takeaway is that FBI director Christopher Wray is correct in his assessment of China as a "whole of society" threat. The ease with which we self-censor in the face of Chinese assessment that we have offended the whole of the Chinese people (how DO they make that determination?) is a threat to our own values in more than just business. In 2002, eminent China scholar Perry Link wrote of Chinese censorship as the "The Anaconda in the Chandelier" - everyone knows it is there, we can't see it, and don't know when it will strike. It is powerful, and causes us to behave differently. We fear all the more what we don't know and can't see. But national inability to tolerate a single tweet by a relatively minor official of the NBA is itself a bargaining tactic to worry about.

"The ease with which we self-censor in the face of Chinese assessment that we have offended the whole of the Chinese people (how DO they make that determination?) is a threat to our own values in more than just business."

See also identity politics, cancel culture, political correctness, etc??

“American politicians and leaders should offer greater support for the more liberal sides of the Black Lives Matter movement. But not all businesspeople are in the same position, especially if they are actively involved with US whose behavior is under consideration.”

“NBA is currently trying to market its products to USA. I don’t think NBA executives should be tweeting or commenting on the status of Black Lives Matter movement”

Excellent!! Why don’t we all live in Singapore where any commitment to human rights and free speech is routinely sacrificed in the interest of money making and material comfort. Oh wait.. Cowen loves Singapore. Adds up.

Hey Tyler,
Where do you get your model for how long to capitulate financially and morally to a regime that tortures millions of its own citizens? At what point do they start torturing the citizens of their main rival? Is it before or after their citizens are projected to demand democracy because they advanced economically?

There is the dream that if you amass enough money, you can do whatever you want. However, a simple tweet showed that businessmen must not anger customers.

The outcome of this case is almost out of grasp for the people that dream about money and power. Commitment to human rights, free speech, whatever. People couldn't care less about Hong Kong. People is more worried about a business decision than the US government foreign policy. Why? Because what people want is to keep dreaming the dream of invincible businessmen. One day, they want to become one.

Sorry kids, the people that stands up for values and human rights are soldiers (military) and politicians. Asking businessmen to stand up for something is literally barking at the wrong tree.

The more interesting angle of the story is China's reaction to very mild criticism. This embarrassing backpedaling and ass kissing is how the CCP proves to Chinese people that the NBA is kowtowing. It is more than just business. This is a method of social control and institutional arbitrage. Normalizing this behavior at this point is going to require a very heavy handed correction 20 years down the line.

The NBA is also unwilling assisting China in exporting its social credit system. Who is going want to work with Morey or anyone else who has offended China? China has made this man a persona non grata in his own country!

Again, an elite economist takes the *narrow* view on trade (while the much maligned public has managed to discover the correct wider view). Free trade with China improves material welfare, yes, but it comes with a huge loss in American integrity, personal freedoms and social cohesion. 20 years ago, you would have scoffed at that statement, but now you have to be pretty daft not to acknowledge it. I honestly wonder how much of Professor Cowen's personal interest in maintaining safe passage to China has influenced his framing of this issue. Usually he is not one to miss the forest for the trees.

unwilling --> willing. But otherwise, +1.

American companies can troll the CCP. Critical semiconductor companies should go on Twitter and publicly support Hong Kong democracy. If China bans them, then companies like ZTE goes out of business. US pork producers should do the same thing. Ban them and there will be riots in China. There are industries where the West has leverage over China. This is some Sun Tzu level sh*t and in line with Tyler's thinking that some companies are in a better position to engage with geopolitics.

The more that China behaves like a bitter ex, the more the West should return the favor not in kind but more smartly. FYI, China doesn't take these things personally. The mentality of the people there is that "might makes right" and they fully accept that because they would do the same thing if they were in our position, which is how the logic goes. I know that is hard for Westerners to accept this style of thinking but the Chinese aren't Westerners.

Well, American companies don't troll. They make alliances and profits.

Ford setup an assembly line on the USSR on 1929/1930. Ford also produced lots of military trucks in Germany before WW2. Today General Motors has a 50/50 joint venture with SAIC Motors in China. They sold 7 million cars on 2018. I won't get into the long history of cozy relationships between oil companies and Middle-East despots.

Industries in the West do have some leverage over China, but why should this leverage be used to support Hong Kong and not to improve profits? This is asking for leverage (power) redistribution.

Agreed - the NBA has more leverage than it thinks

"But not all businesspeople are in the same position, especially if they are actively involved with China or other countries whose behavior is under consideration."

I see, so they will sell us out to Red China.

"there is nothing wrong with a sports league that steers its major executives away..."

Wrong framing. The first question is whether it would be ok if the US government were to impose penalties on US citizens and firms for criticizing government policies. Clearly, it would not. Our response would not be to say that there's nothing wrong with firms trying to avoid such penalties. The issue would be US government over-reach, not firms' and citizens' response to same. (Although one could criticize firms and citizens for not resisting such over-reach.) In the present case, it's the CCP that is imposing penalties on Americans' speech. We should be even *more* protective, not less, of free speech rights when foreign governments try to restrict it.

Then, we need to ask how a foreign government obtained the power to penalize Americans' speech in the first place. That's what implicates the "doux commerce thesis" and the related policy of "engagement", which has really become a policy of anti-containment. We must contain totalitarian regimes because --- as we have seen not only with NBA executives but also with airline executives, academics, and Hollywood executives --- what goes on in China doesn't actually stay in China.

The NBA, and Daryl Morey especially, are victims of CCP tyranny. In that sense, Tyler is right to say that our anger is misdirected when pointed at them. We should direct our anger towards the Chinese government. Tyler goes too far, though, when he says that the NBA and Morey are doing the right thing. We might have empathy for someone that allows themselves to be strong-armed by tyrants, but praise should be reserved for those that resist such tyranny.

Somebody should ask the NBA players who refused to go to the White House to celebrate with Trump whether or not they'd accept an invitation from Xi. I'm half surprised our tweeter-in-chief hasn't already done so.

I think we rather enjoy that in America it is a choice.

And the proper comparison is to how a Chinese team would respond to a Xi invitation. I'd think everyone would recognize that in China, there is no option.

Ah, a preview of how they might cravenly dance around the question? The follow-up would be yes -- that is all true. But the NBA is a global brand and extremely popular in China (so popular that there more NBA fans in China than in the US). So I ask again, if invited, would you accept an invitation from President Xi?

Free Americans should have a free choice, how hard is that?

Nothing hard about it -- yes, they (rightly) had a choice when it came to accepting an invitation from Trump and they (rightly) would have the same choice with respect to an invitation from Xi. Obviously. But that's not an answer to the question. That's evasion. The question is, "What choice would they make and why"?

Asking me to decide for other people isn't very American is it?

Just as teams and players made a lot of different decisions with Trump, so I would expect a lot of different decisions with Xi.

Maybe some would stay away to protest, maybe some would go to work for peace, or change, or whatever.

See also NBA players and North Korea.

anonymous is dancing around the question harder than Elizabeth Warren about tax increases. Yes. They would go. They are progressives and progressives think kindly about authoritarianism.

>so popular that there more NBA fans in China than in the US

But how many have helped pay for your arenas?

Also -- it looks like events may have overtaken TC's column:

China said it will stop broadcasting NBA games after Commissioner Adam Silver defended Daryl Morey's freedom to support Hong Kong protests

Maybe that's not a bug , maybe that's a feature.

If we are true to ourselves, and China cancels us, Chinese citizens know why they lost the basketball.

Clearly the bad actor was the Chinese government.

This could get very interesting, especially when the Chinese are deprived of their NBA.

None dare call it treason.

Last year China forced changes to U.S. airline websites, to ensure that Taiwan wasn't listed as a separate country from China. Marriott even had its website shut down in China to address this issue.

A Marriott social media employee 'liked' a tweet by Friends of Tibet. Far from the usual practice of not commenting publicly on personnel matters (especially of low level staffers) the lodging company publicly announced the employee's dismissal. Marriott self-reported a banned book found in a public space of one of their hotels and went searching for other banned books.

Recently the European Union's Court of Justice upheld an Austrian court's ruling that Facebook must remove statements about a politician - not only in Europe but worldwide.

I wonder what the limiting principle is here, Facebook certainly wants to do business in Europe does this take suggest they ought to be required to censor what all users write on its platform about European politicians or European politics?

It may be bad business to poke the bear in the zoo, but when you only have a limited ability to control zoo guests - whether users or players - you're on a collision course, right? To further mix metaphors you've got a Kobayashi Maru scenario, do you acquiesce to Chinese demands or to those of American consumers when they come into conflict?

As I say above, I am sympathetic to the idea that US companies needn't be political actors.

But I think too that if we start to see throttled speech within the US, for fear of offending oligarchs, we have indeed lost something.

I think Slocum missed the analogy with US players and their freedoms .. can we really defend the right to take a knee for one thing but not another?

Or was this a Trojan Horse for "shut up and play?"

I think the point of this article is that you have freedom of expression as a citizen, but your speech carries consequences, especially if you have an employer who has customers.

It's not often that Marco Rubio steals a march on Tyler Cowen:

"Recognize what’s happening here. People who don’t live in #China must either self censor or face dismissal & suspensions. China using access to market as leverage to crush free speech globally. Implications of this will be felt long after everyone in U.S. politics today is gone."

I kinda hate this take Tyler, and I’m reasonably ok with much of your more interesting contrarianism. The question isn’t did Morey commit a gaffe vis a vis his company, it’s what should the appropriate view of that company be here? How do you celebrate a brand that navigates contentious relationship between minority players and domestic law enforcement then say the right move to to grovel when an actual police state wants you to? The method of influence here is the requirement to participate in propaganda in order to access that market. Is that the right set of terms to accept? Where does it stop?

Curios, how far down the rabbit hole does this go? If China, say, demanded that NBA fire any players of Chinese descent who publicly support the Hong Kong protests should the NBA be given carte blanche to discriminate in this manner because it is good for profits? Or should the human rights of the players (e.g. no racial discrimination) come first?

Exactly how should liability work when kowtowing to foreign powers? Is it all just business or do your actions still have to clear the usual legal bars? It seems awfully odd to me that it should be okay to back white, liberal political causes (e.g. amending the Irish Constitution, opposing Orban's judiciary changes) but not Asian liberal ones (e.g. Taiwan, Hong Kong). While I think the legal standard is garbage, this would seem to be a prima facie case of racism. Are we going to be okay with racism as long as enough money is riding on it? That defense died decades ago legally, should we really resurrect it?

Maybe if our government hadn't allowed Red China to blackmail American companies, it wouldn't happen. I mean, apparently we are tough enough to target Duba and Iran with sanctions. Why not China and Saudi Arabia?!

The standard of behavior used to be don't discuss religion or politics in business. The downsides should be obvious - and you had to go on living with these people, both in business and the personal world. I suspect these standards also reflected the notoriously bad experience of centuries of European religious and civil wars

That's obviously largely fallen by the wayside in today's hyper-politicized and "woke" environment. Once the business decides to involve themselves in the issues of Occupied Cypress, the correct boundary between India and Pakistan, or whether the UK be should be in the EU - let alone even more divisive and emotionally charged US domestic policy issues - where do you draw a line? How much time should the business spend on Occupied Cypress? Why so little, or so much?

But I guess Iran and Cuba are the real threats to Civilization, not Red China, radical Islam and Japan.

Iran and Cuba don't have a billion potential customers.

So that is what we have become. A bunch of spineless, self-seeking blackguards. It is hard to believe that is what young Americans, whose graves, as said President Kennedy, surround the world, gave their lives for, when they, as President Lincol said, gave the last full measure of devotion.

Again, who is "we"? Is the NBA, a global corporation owned by cosmopolitan billionaires, led by David Stern, with teams filled by millionaires, some foreign, others openly known to harbor resentment against America and American society, "we"?

We are letting them get away with it. We are morally responsible.

Hey Shark, I've been running the NBA for almost a decade now. Stern is long gone.

They're pretty much interchangeable, doesn't that kind of make my point?

No it just proves you don't know what the f*ck you are talking about.

The NBA has inserted itself in domestic issues, such as North Carolina's bathroom legislation, so it seems hypocritical. I understand the underlying financial motivation is the same. Protesting social issues in the U.S. appeals to some fans here, while ignoring repression in China does the same for fans in that country.

likewise, Volkswagen did the right thing by keeping its head down and churning out all those tanks

Goodwin's law, I know, but it calls for it. Would Morey be wrong to express doubts about Maoist China if he worked for an industry that did business with it? how about disapproving of Tienanmen square?

This is still on my tbr list, but aren’t you supposed to call “doux commerce” “bourgeois virtues” now?

I think this kind of problem is even more potentially damaging in the cultural cold civil war than internationally. With the Nike and Kaepernick case the brand was sort of bounced into making their position clear. There is a danger of this spreading to everything, past just chic fil a and Nike, to the point where people signal their allegiance with their choice of brands in every market, and brands are forced to adopt a political position. It's tribalism yoked to capitalism.

I guess totalitarianism is not as great as we have been told it is.

>there is nothing wrong with a sports league that steers its major executives away from commenting on external politics...

... as long as it also boycotts Charlotte NC because it won't force women to use bathrooms where men are also welcome inside.

Tyler, you pathetic craven coward.


I heard that a Pornhub exec got fired for saying something mean about pedophiles. Turns out that the pedo market is voracious for product. However they are a bit sensitive about publicity

The question now is how committed these corporations are to America and American values when they are bending over backwards to appease what some consider our greatest enemy. Silicon Valley has already shown its true colors, who's next? What happens if (God forbid) we get into a shooting war with the ChiComs? How sure can we be that the global corporations, nominally American, won't work to sabotage us?

"America and American values when they are bending over backwards to appease what some consider our greatest enemy."

If it is our greatest enemy, why do we do business with them? Why are we targeting Iran and Duba with sanctions while giving money ro our "greatest enemy"?! Why have we been helping it to build the military it intends to use to crush America and enslave mankind!?

the answer to that depends on how much room there is in new zealand

Who is "we"? Is it the American people? Is it the United States government? Is it global businesses nominally based here who may or may not have some American shareholders and executives, of whom have variable loyalties towards the US?

Are sanctions truly a mark of what the government does and does not endorse from foreign nations? If Iran had the world's largest emerging consumer market, don't you think there would be more pushback from corporate lobbyists?

The point is that we can't even expect our corporate overlords to defend the values that allow them to operate as they do. It doesn't matter if it's China or Russia or Brazil or Vanuatu, or even themselves, they have divided loyalties.

The corporate overlords only have one loyalty, make the most money as possible for the executives, bankers, and insiders (and their shareholders if necessary) however they think they can get it done, short of going to jail or getting shot in the face. Everything else is PR.

"We" are the US government system of subsidies, promotions, protection, and fiscal and regulatory preferences.

"We" is also US consumers and where they choose to spend their money.

"The point is that we can't even expect our corporate overlords to defend the values that allow them to operate as they do"
Then it is a time for action. It is time to make clear that either they play ball or they won't be allowed to play ball. If necessary, the rogue companies should be nationalized.

The happy medium between globohomo hegemony and nationalized industry is supporting businesses that are owned by Americans, ideally by the employees, and especially those who are willing to demonstrate their loyalty to the American people and American ideals... And of course, making sure the American people themselves remain intact.

We have to apply punishme t to the wrong-doers. They must understand what they are doing is weong and we won't accept jt.

Of course, the NBA could likely significantly advance its business interests in China by having its top execs expressly and enthusiastically endorse China's "view" of the HK protest movement. Do their fiduciary obligations to the organization then require them to do so? It seems the problem is that "doing business" in China is some distance away from what "doing business" should be.

Where is Colin Kaepernick or Nike when we need them?

How many Uighur kidneys need to be reeducated before an NBA employee is allowed to criticize it? How many children need to be stomped in the street by "police"? How many Americans need to die from fentanyl (essentially all comes from China) overdoses? When will Americans stand up for freedom, not money

Its 1950, George Mikin says "I stand with the kulaks in the gulag."
NBA, looking to expand into Soviet Russia, makes him take it back and flies to Moscow to beg forgiveness.
Milton Friedman says "It's inappropriate for an American to criticize the gulags."

Just listened to Adam Silver's comments. He actually supported Morey. He prioritized supporting an employee over the potential loss of income.

Overall, I think Tyler gets it mostly right. It really isn't the place of business people to engage in public diplomacy. As a rule, they should stay out of politics or commenting on politically sensitive issues. If they want to do that then get out of business and into an appropriate venue.

Of course, we know that our paid politicians would also place money first. Our response to Kashoggi was we dont care as long as you will keep buying weapons.


Morley was dumb. Who cares if some guy 99% of Americans and Chinese never heard of tweets his support. It won't have any impact on what the Chinese do. The itch to comment on everything on Twitter is very stupid for most people, up to and including Donald Trump.

Having said that, I delight in the NBA showing how hypocritical it is. Especially punks like Steve Kerr.

Lebron James famously wore a "I can't breath" warm up shirt. He is in China right now I think. Seems like a good time to put some HK support phrase on a shirt. Maybe a picture of the 15 year old shot last week.

"It won't have any impact on what the Chinese do."

Apparently, it has impact on what the Chinese regime does.

Not as to Hong Kong.

So that is it, 1938 all over again.

"There is simply too much tension between the fiduciary obligations of the potential speakers and the issues under consideration."

Maybe. But, in this case, Morley's initial tweet was not made officially in his capacity of General Manager of the Houston Rockets. It appears to me that this tweet was in a private capacity. Plus, the Houston Rockets are owned by one individual, Tilman Fertitta, who reportedly paid $2.2 billion for the team in 2017. I have a much greater concern about communications made in an official capacity by executives of publicly traded companies where shareholders have little or no control over what executives say or do. For example, I am much more concerned about how executives of US companies pursue solely their individual preferences when making political and charitable contributions with company funds. Morley didn't use anyone else's funds while expressing his private opinion.

If anything, contrary apparently to Tyler Cowen, this incident only strengthened my view that human rights abuses (including free speech restrictions) by China's government need to be confronted. At what point does Cowen think that one's "fiduciary duty" (here, apparently equated with mercantalist interest) is outweighed by one's "fidiciary duty" (in the broadest sense) to oppose an oppressive regime? Would Hitler's Germany have been an example of the latter, or should US businesses have continued to pursue solely their short-term commercial interest?

Comments for this post are closed