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The freedom of speech in NBA

The tweet in favor of the Hong Kong protests from the Houston Rockets gm brought back the theme of the human rights

The freedom of speech in NBA The tweet in favor of the Hong Kong protests from the Houston Rockets gm brought back the theme of the human rights

Already involved in many important diplomatic questions, the United States of America and China are once again against each other for the 'fault' of NBA basketball, which had already planned two pre-season Asian tours, in Japan at Saitama, in China at Shenzhen and Shanghai. It all started on October 4th when the Houston Rockets general manager, Daryl Morey, dared to say through a tweet in favor of Hong Kong protests. A message immediately deleted, quickly followed by another containing an apology, from which many people have immediately taken the distance but did not avoid a series of unexpected consequences. On all those of having reopened the theme related to the freedom of speech, its limits and its manifestations, which in the past had already been treated by great American athletes and on which the league had repeatedly confirmed its orientation.

In China they did not like at all this message in such a hot topic, not only due to the imminence of the friendly matches that will see Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets as main actors, but also because of Houston, that thanks to Yao Ming's many years of militancy in the Texan franchise became one of the most followed teams in China, and has contributed to making the Chinese people passionate about American basketball, involving tens of millions of new fans and making it become the second most popular sport in the country. And while from China they started to play out a real boycott against the Americans (deleting media press conferences, removing both games from the state tv program, torning up rich sponsors' agreements, taking out Rocket gadgets from store shelves and above all massively reducing the interest from the fans themselves towards the two scheduled matches), the NBA commissioner, Adam Silver, had to talk about the fact.

The head of the American basketball league was behind with a real crossroads: trying to limit the damage caused by Morey's declaration to try to safeguard the economic agreements and the future of relationships between the NBA and the numerous Chinese trading partners (where there's the second largest fan base in the world after the American one, for a global market worth about 4 billion dollars) or reiterating the founding values of American culture and not just sports, such as freedom of expression. And Silver clearly opted for the second option:

"I want to be extremely clear on this point: we do not want to apologize because Daryl Morey has exercised his right to have an opinion. What I regret is that there are so many disappointed people for what he said, including millions of our fans. It is incongruent to defend freedom of expression, which we consider one of the founding values ​​of our league, and at the same time understand what our partners feel: I hope our Chinese friends will remember our thirty-year relationship, all we did in China to help the spread of this sport The values ​​of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA and will continue to do so. As a basketball league with an American base that operates globally, among our major contributions are these values ​​of the game. People around the world will inevitably have different points of view. It is not the job of the NBA to judge these differences or regulate raise what the people of the league choose to say."

The case did not end with the words of the commissioner but involved many other subjects, called into question or included independently in this international debate: the Rockets star James Harden tried to solve this general embarrassment by sending love messages to the Chinese people; Dennis Rodman has proposed himself as a mediator to resolve the querelle, given his recent approaches with the North Korean government; Donald Trump, on the other hand, immediately stood up to defend the agreements between the United States and China, accusing the Golden State Warriors coach, Steve Kerr, and the National team coach, Gregg Popovich, of not being able to answer questions and badly talking of the US.

Meanwhile, the behaviors of the Chinese people and the internal debte that inevitably have conditioned the already divided American politics on so many points, have not prevented that the first of the two match is played regularly, even if the consequences of this international case are still incalculable. As laconically claimed by Joseph Tsai, co-founder of the Chinese e-commerce site Alibaba, "this incident caused pain that will take a long time to heal", but years of fan engagement policy should not be compromised by the situation created. This episode confirms to us that once again it was the world of sport that first expressed itself on delicate issues that often politics and politicians are not able to face in the right way for fear of compromising strong economic interests. As happened a few months ago on the occasion of the Kaepernick case, it was the professional league to which it belonged (in that case the NFL, in this the NBA) which publicly took the defense of the athlete, and not only because it possessed his rights (which in American sports are not in the clubs' hands) but because of the need to emphasize the values to be followed, thus legitimizing the conduct of all the members of the same league regardless of the opposing interests involved.