Michele Roberts: Union must better inform NBA players about global issues

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Nearly nobody around the NBA wants to be the next Daryl Morey.

The Rockets general manager tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters, who are trying to maintain and expand their freedom. But considering how quickly Morey deleted the tweet and backtracked, it seemed he didn’t initially understand the ramifications of his stance. China responded heavy-handedly and hurt the NBA’s financial interests there.

A couple players tried to go the other way. James Harden apologized, and LeBron James criticized Morey. Both players received substantial criticism in the United States and Hong Kong.

It quickly became an issue nobody wanted to touch. Doc Rivers said Morey was right, but a Clippers spokesperson went out of the way to clarify Rivers wasn’t commenting on the substance of Morey’s tweet. Only Shaquille O’Neal has clearly articulated support for Morey’s initial tweet.

National Basketball Players Association executive Michele Roberts, via Ben Golliver of The Washington Post:

“For many of the players that went over there, it was their first trip to China,” Roberts said. “Many had no idea what was going on in Hong Kong. Most Americans, let alone most basketball players, are not aware of the politics that have been of concern in China. If we’re going to be sending our guys all over the globe, then we have to make sure they’re armed with the knowledge of where they are going and what’s happening in the locales they’re visiting and playing in.

“That’s a role we’re going to play as a union. It’s a role I don’t think we’ve done a good job of fulfilling to date. We’ve got to be capable of providing information to the players [and assisting them if] they ask for help in formulating a comment.”

This is a great idea and exactly how the union should be supporting its members.

There’s a lot of money for the NBA – owners and players – to make around the world. The league is aggressively chasing that revenue.

If players are better-informed, they’ll make better decisions in that environment. Some might choose to prioritize financial interests. Some might choose to emphasize human rights. But at least the players will be coming from a place of knowledge.

Now, who’s going to teach the owners about these issues?