Op-Ed: It’s In NBA’s Court To Promote Free Speech

Free Speech

I’ve been a basketball fan my entire life at every level of the game, and I’ve played the game myself from childhood to the pickup games in my neighborhood and with my fellow colleagues in government. This game brings people together from all backgrounds, and with the little equipment needed to play has given tens of thousands of young people the opportunity to better their lives and the lives of their family members.

As a fan of this sport, the recent events that have taken place in and around the NBA regarding tweets from Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets General Manager on the Hong Kong protests has me deeply concerned with the direction we are heading in.

Assemblyman Walter Mosley

The NBA quickly had Mooney delete the tweet and issue an apology statement. They called Mooney’s tweet “regrettable” and that his tweet hand offended the people of China. They also added “the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them.” The owner of the Houston Rockets, Tilman Fertitta tried to distance himself and the team from politics while the team was in Tokyo for a match between the Toronto Raptors.

The NBA for so long has been among the most progressive of the major professional athletic associations. However, when companies and organizations begin to take on characteristics which look to suppress our nation’s fundamental principles and values here in America – that’s when I become deeply disturbed with the very values of that business and whether their values are for sale in an effort to exploit a communist market like China.

Basketball is a big deal in China, and for the NBA it has become quite lucrative. This is partly due to the fact that breakout players like Yao Ming came here to play at the highest level. Now it’s estimated that some 300 million people, or roughly one-third of China’s population play the sport. While the NBA doesn’t post how it generates its income from China, the Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum stated that last year NBA China, which was created in 2008, produces four billion dollars in revenue.

And the NBA is not the only company folding to the demands of China. Apple recently removed an application used by Hong Kong protestors to warn each other of police activity.

We should be able to stand up and speak out about how we feel, especially when there are glaring human rights violations occurring. The NBA should take a stand and show that they still have some moral decency within their organization and its affiliates.

Several Chinese businesses have suspended ties with the Houston Rockets after its General Manager Daryl Mooney expressed support for the Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protest and since has deleted his tweet in support of the pro-democratic Hong Kong protests.

To the contrary, the interests of the NBA seems to be more to its stockholders rather in the interest of human rights. They could have backed up Mr. Mooney but they chose not to. The NBA is probably hoping this will just “blow over,” but the continuation of the discussion shows it likely will not.

Right here in our city, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai has referred to Mooney as being “misinformed” about the whole situation. Tsai quoted saying that “But the pain this incident has caused will take a long time to repair.” Joe Tsai is an e-commerce billionaire but has since been trying to play the role as peacekeeper since the Houston Rockets have been shut out of the Chinese market due to Mooney’s tweets. Joe Tsai also owns the Barclays center, and if he’s going to be a part of this city he should know that we believe in human rights for all.

The NBA needs to decide which side of history they want to be on.

Walter T. Mosley currently serves as the New York State Assemblyman and District leader for the 57th Assembly District, representing the communities of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights and parts of Bedford Stuyvesant and Crown Heights.