The embarrassing spectacle of the NBA’s millionaire players and billionaire owners doing the bidding of China’s communist rulers, and even attacking the United States in the process, has forced Americans to ask questions about our national culture.
Many have asked if the case for free trade was a fable, and that instead of us exporting American liberties, we are importing Chinese oppression. Others have pointed to the hypocrisy of “woke” NBA celebrities, such as Steve Kerr and Gregg Popovich, “brave” when defending elite morality in America but abject cowards when faced with actual cases of oppression that potentially conflict with their financial interests or contractual obligations.
But there’s a subtler point that it’s easy to miss: The censorious arguments from Beijing’s defenders sound like they could come from the mouths of campus leftists or appear on the pages of America’s liberals magazines.
Take the letter from Joe Tsai, the billionaire who owns most of the New Jersey Nets. The first part of the letter conflates, again and again, the demands of the Chinese state to silence opposition with the demands of “fans.” …
… Tsai then adopts a stance that is very familiar to those who have tried to host a conservative speaker or even a debate on a liberal campus: Free speech isn’t for sensitive topics that affect “certain cultures.”
“[T]he NBA has been very progressive in allowing players and other constituents a platform to speak out on issues,” Tsai writes. “The problem is, there are certain topics that are third-rail issues in certain countries, societies and communities.”
Supporting Hong Kong independence is out of bounds for “all citizens in China,” Tsai claims. “This issue is non-negotiable.”