Warriors coach Steve Kerr is incredibly outspoken on political issues. He even once said, “If you look at the history of the world, the biggest problems come when people don’t speak. So, I think it’s important to express your views.”
But when controversy erupted over Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeting support for Hong Kong protesters (who trying to maintain and expand their freedoms) and the NBA’s relationship with China, Kerr was quiet.
Candace Buckner of The Washington Post:
With the NBA addressing severed ties w/ a Chinese bkb camp, I wanted to share this from Steve Kerr
I’m working on a piece abt coaches & their role in speaking up & Kerr, usually outspoken, admitted he didn’t like his comments re: China last yr
I think this is honest reflection pic.twitter.com/6sPNVWWnVt
— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) July 24, 2020
I’m glad Kerr admitted his remorse.
At very minimum, Morey deserved stronger support for exercising his freedom of speech. That should have been easy to provide. Yet, even the NBA itself needed multiple attempts to get that right. So many around the league blew that easiest test.
Kerr is right: The NBA is far from unique as an American company operating in China. But the NBA looked ill-prepared for this inevitable dispute. And more than just tolerating authoritarianism in China, the NBA has reportedly even been complicit in abuses.
The money can be blinding.
And then there is the actual substance of Morey’s tweet – supporting the Hong Kong protesters. Kerr still didn’t directly address that.
Nor does he have to. Kerr was reasonable when he said he needn’t address every issue around the world.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver and team owners should do more to explain the league’s business interests on China. That responsibility shouldn’t fall onto coaches and players just because they’re in front of the media more often.
But it stood out that Kerr, for all his political outspokenness, kept quiet in a situation where the NBA – which includes Kerr – had significant revenue on the line.
It was a difficult situation. It wasn’t just Kerr’s money at stake. Everyone involved with the league had a vested interest in keeping China happy. Everyone involved with the league has a vested interest in keeping China happy.
Even now, Kerr still doesn’t say anything nearly as divisive as Morey tweeted.
While I appreciate Kerr admitting he mishandled the situation, it’s not as if he has suddenly become a leader on the human-rights issues in China. He’s just not as quiet as he initially was.