The NBA is familiar with political speech. That’s how the league got into this China situation in the first place, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeting support for Hong Kong protestors seeking to maintain and expand their freedoms.
How do two of the NBA’s loudest political voices – particularly when it comes to criticizing President Donald Trump – feel about China, Hong Kong and American business?
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he hadn’t read enough to comment. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich offered full-throated support of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who affirmed the league’s commitment to freedom expression while still trying to salvage the league’s business interest in China.
I watched this guy Steve Kerr, and he was like a little boy. He was so scared to be even answering the question. He couldn’t answer the question. He was shaking. “Oh, oh, I don’t know. I don’t know.” He didn’t know how to answer the question. And yet he’ll talk about the United States very badly. I watched Popovich sort of the same thing, but he didn’t look quite as scared, actually. But they talk badly about the United States. But when it talks about China, they don’t want to say anything bad. I thought it was pretty sad, actually.
I agree with Trump’s most broad criticism. Kerr is outspoken on political issues, but with one where his expressed sensibilities conflict with the NBA’s business interests, he remains quiet. It’s OK for Kerr to proceed that way, but it’s also OK to point out his sudden lack of candor. That said, if Kerr comments after reading up on the issue, he should get a pass. It’s not important he comments immediately before properly informed.
However, Trump is inaccurate to say Kerr and Popovich talk badly about the United States. They criticize aspects of the United States – a highly patriotic thing to do.
Trump’s hypocrisy is also unsettling. He reportedly promised Chinese President Xi Jinping to remain silent on Hong Kong protests while the U.S. and China held trade talks. Trump denied making that pledge, but he has also said minimal on the protests.