On Oct. 8, NBA commissioner Adam Silver released another statement espousing his league’s commitment to free speech.
That was the last significant comment we’ve heard from someone in the NBA about Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors and the ensuing controversy. The Lakers and Nets held no media availability while playing two preseason games in China.
But Silver and those teams at least discussed a public strategy.
Silver was said to be extremely thoughtful and transparent with Lakers and Nets players, coaches and executives present. He discussed that he believed players should face the media and support the league’s openness toward freedom of expression, wanting to open the room up for discussion and an open-minded approach toward the situation, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting.
Lakers star LeBron James spoke up in front of everyone in the room and stated he believed that Silver and the NBA needed to explain and articulate the situation first, before the players would have to, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the meeting told The Athletic. James expressed concern that without the league being able to speak to media to address all of the questions and dynamics about China and the NBA, it was unfair for solely players to bear that responsibility.
Of course, LeBron would respond this way. He’s among the leading advocates of player empowerment.
And he’s right.
NBA owners and the league office that represents them should be answering questions about this issue. They’re the ones who took the NBA to China. They’re the ones who will decide where to draw the line in compromises between value and money. Explaining those decisions shouldn’t fall to players.
It’s natural to seek answers from players and coaches. They are regularly available to the media. Owners are not. But owners/Silver should be front and center on this issue.
That said, as Silver and many others around the NBA love to proclaim, the league operates as a partnership between owners and players. Player salaries are directly tied to league-wide revenue. Players do have a voice in when the league puts ethics over what an owner wants. See Donald Sterling.
Questions remain for players, especially stars who are essentially their own brands and do business in China.
The biggest questions should be for owners, though.