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.
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.