THE $ELECTIVE WOKENE$$ OF THE NBA AND NFL
It has been over 140 days since the Thunder-Jazz game was cancelled just before tipoff, but basketball is back. Baseball is back. Football is just around the corner. Finally, sports are back. But they are not without their controversy. The social unrest and racial tension have created a treacherous environment for businesses. In an age where the far left cries out that “silence is violence,” companies must decide whether and how to speak out on the social issues facing the country to protect their revenue stream. The NBA and NFL have shown two different flaws in addressing the issues that are facing the country. Where the NBA has shown its hypocrisy, the NFL has shown its cowardice. Both leagues are part of a larger trend of corporations that adopt progressive causes that they do not care about to boost revenue. They are not social justice warriors. They are social justice profiteers.
The NBA has a history of speaking up on racial justice issues. From Trayvon Martin to George Floyd and Breanna Taylor, the NBA and its players are well acquainted with calling out perceived injustices against African Americans. Although I have not always agreed with their methods or ultimate conclusions, disagreement is necessary and natural in a free country. A good-faith disagreement on these issues is not the issue. The issue is the NBA’s hypocrisy.
For the entire season, the NBA has been getting slammed with criticisms as a result of its heavy reliance on the Chinese market. During the preseason, Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted “#FreeHongKong” in support of the city in its struggle to maintain its autonomy and liberty from the Chinese regime. He was met with backlash from players like Lebron James who called the tweet “misinformed.” The Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver, referred to the fact that the social justice message offended the Chinese as “unfortunate.”
Recently, critics have contrasted the NBA’s willingness to call out perceived racial injustice in the US with its silence on issues like the internment and forced sterilization of the Chinese Uighur population. Presumably, NBA players and other employees learned their lesson from the #FreeHongKong incident that only social justice issues that help the bottom line are permitted. Thanks in part to pressure applied on the issue by Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, the NBA closed its training center in the Xinjiang region, where many of the atrocities are occurring. This action is clearly a step in the right direction, but it falls well short of what the NBA should do. It was not just the Xinjiang region responsible for these atrocities but the entire Chinese government. If the league truly cares about social justice and not just thickening its wallet, it should divest from China completely. Instead, the NBA is trying to preserve its Chinese revenue while doing just enough to appease its American audience. This shows the NBA’s hypocritical approach when it comes to social justice issues: speak out only if it does not hurt my paycheck. The NBA may well be motivated by a desire for social justice for issues at home, but greed appears to be a stronger motivator when the motives clash.
I am not arguing that every person or organization has a responsibility to call out every injustice in the world. But for a league that is so steeped in social justice issues to turn a blind eye to ethnically motivated eugenics is wrong. Further, the league’s intimate relationship with the Chinese causes them to be particularly susceptible to this criticism.
Such is the risk of doing business in a totalitarian country.
Despite dealing in a sport where full grown men crash into each other at high speeds, the NFL has shown itself to be cowardly when it comes to social justice issues. The NFL is not interested in leading social justice change, but adapting to the current social climate to protect its wallet. Many believe that before the recent shift in social attitudes towards race relations and kneeling, the NFL conspired to keep Collin Kaepernick out of the league to prevent controversy and maintain its profits. However, over the last few months, the NFL has announced a number of new social justice initiatives like playing the black national anthem before games. Additionally, teams have a renewed interest in Kaepernick since the shift in public opinion. This news clearly is not a coincidence. The NFL and its teams followed the shift in public opinion so it could fit in with the time and preserve its income.
Ironically, I am reminded of a quote by Tony Dungy, the first black head coach to win the Super Bowl. He said,
“Courage is the ability to do the right thing, all the time, no matter how painful or uncomfortable it might be.”
If signing Kaepernick was the best thing for a team, why were no teams looking into it previously? Simple: because doing so in the past would have been met with backlash and controversy which in turn would have hurt the bottom line.
Would Dungy call that courage?
Far worse than a good-faith disagreement with someone is disagreeing with someone who is motivated by their own interests rather than the truth. It is impossible to reach the truth in an argument with someone who conceals their true motives. If greed is their true motive, no amount of evidence or reason will convince them to the contrary unless their own self-interest changes. When it comes to solutions and practices of racial issues (other than Chinese relations), the NBA seems to be more in the former category while the NFL is in the latter. At best, these corporations are more motivated by greed than justice. At worst, they are totally apathetic to social issues outside of how they can manipulate them for their own economic benefit. Their actions are not about achieving justice but instead their revenue stream.
So what should be done? The answer is simple: if the motive for hypocrisy and cowardice is financial, then the consequence should be as well. Hold onto your hard earned money. Skip the tickets, jerseys, and other merchandise. Do not continue to bankroll those who condone ethnic cleansing or those who ride the changing tide of social attitudes like a surfer.