President Donald Trump mocked Warriors coach Steve Kerr for his silence in the aftermath of Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeting support for Hong Kong protesters, who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms.
Now, Vice President Mike Pence is coming after the whole NBA.
The NBA was acting like a “wholly owned subsidiary” of China’s “authoritarian regime” for failing to stand up to the government’s criticism of Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey, he said.
Pence also chided China for its repression of religious minorities and its aggressive territorial disputes with smaller neighbors. He said the U.S. stands with the pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
This isn’t totally fair. In his third remarks on the issue, NBA commissioner Adam Silver strongly backed Morey’s freedom of expression.
But it taking three tries to deliver that message clearly is also telling.
The NBA is trying to compromise with China. The league wants to continue espousing American values while also doing business in China. It’s a tough balance – one the United States itself is trying to pull off while negotiating a new trade deal with China. It’s unfair to single out the NBA for operating the way many American companies and the U.S. government itself do with China.
That said, at least Pence is far more outspoken in his criticism of China. The NBA community has largely fallen silent after Morey’s tweet and the ensuing backlash. Only Shaquille O’Neal and maybe Doc Rivers have spoken up on the substance of Morey’s message.
And to a degree, that’s OK. We should expect more from political leaders like Pence than NBA personnel on these geopolitical issues.