Regular-season play has just started for the National Basketball Association, but the international dust-up that plagued its preseason games isn’t over.
That was the message Vice President Mike Pence delivered in a speech Thursday in Washington, where he attacked the league and the Nike apparel company for lacking a spine when it comes to dealing with the communist giant of Asia.
The league, he said, was acting like a “wholly owned subsidiary of that authoritarian regime.”
“Some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of other peoples,” Pence said in an address at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, according to The Associated Press.
His words left no room for doubt about where the Trump White House stands.
Check out an excerpt here:
Vice President Mike Pence is calling out Nike and the NBA for their recent comments on Hong Kong. pic.twitter.com/884DBACHLr
— Esteban Reynoso (@reynosotv) October 24, 2019
As even non-sports fans know by now, the NBA’s lucrative relationship with China was sent into a tailspin starting Oct. 4, when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the demonstrators in Hong Kong who are challenging Beijing’s ever-more restrictive rule.
Morey deleted the tweet almost immediately, but it caused an open rift between China and the NBA that drew in major stars like LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, who promptly disgraced himself by siding with the Chinese government.
Former NBA MVP and league legend Charles Barkley was just as bad, telling radio host Dan Patrick that the league’s critics were wrong. The NBA, he said, literally could not afford to alienate China for the sake of its business.
“They have billions of dollars at stake. It’s a business decision … the players and owners have billions of dollars at stake,” Barkley earlier this month, according to The Daily Caller.
“It’s easy for these Monday morning quarterbacks to say they should do this or that because it’s not their money.”
As Pence noted in his speech, Nike executives caved to China, too. Reuters reported the company pulled Houston Rockets regalia from stores in China in a clear attempt to appease the government of President Xi Jinping.
The irony, of course, is that the NBA preens about how much the league and its players care about “social justice” — at least when it comes to the United States.
Nike, meanwhile, employs probably the most infamous protester in American sports — former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who managed to turn his spoiled-child act of kneeling for the pregame playing of the national anthem into a career as a Nike spokesman.
“Nike promotes itself as a so-called social justice champion, but when it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the door,” Pence said, according to Breitbart.
And the willingness of the NBA and companies like Nike to join the Chinese government in squelching discussion about the fate of Hong Kong and its people isn’t just hypocrisy, Pence said.
“When American corporations, professional sports, pro athletes embrace censorship, it’s not just wrong, it’s un-American,” he said.
Those are harsh words, but they’re words most American conservatives would agree with.
Liberals, however, are apparently seeing the issue solely through “orange man bad” lenses, judging by the comments on Pence’s speech on social media.
Men and women who call themselves “liberals” but haven’t the guts or brains to see that what’s happening between China and Hong Kong is the essence of an authoritarian state stomping out the embers of freedom in an area under its control are almost beneath contempt.
But Pence’s speech did put the athletic world on notice that the White House, at least, is paying very close attention.
And it doesn’t sound like President Donald Trump likes what he sees.
No more than the rest of conservative America does.
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