On October 4th, 2019, Daryl Morey tweeted support for a protest group in Hong Kong. He knew it was a sensitive issue but did not expect it would become an international scandal and cost the NBA hundreds of millions of dollars.
The problem was exacerbated by the fact NBA teams were in China at the time. A lot of them were actually in the air, flying to China when the news broke. After a period of confusion, LeBron James got in front of reporters and was asked about Morey's tweet.
“I don't want to get in a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn't educated on the situation at hand, and he spoke, and so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually.”
Next to The Decision, this statement will go down as one of LeBron's career lowlights. Particularly because LeBron is so outspoken in fighting for equality in the States, yet he used standard regime tropes to describe Morey. “He wasn't educated,” said James, despite the fact he did not speak to Morey about the issue.
As it turns out, Morey was educated. Even if you didn't talk to him, this was a safe assumption to make. The analytics guy usually does his homework. In a story by Jackie MacMullan, we found out this wasn't a tweet Morey just fired out because others were doing it.
“What James did not know was that Morey had befriended a number of Hong Kong residents while attending business school and had intimate knowledge of the challenges they faced living in a semi-autonomous region. His decision to tweet his support was neither rash nor uninformed, but a conscious effort to express his solidarity for people he knew well.”
Jackie MacMullan, ESPN
The NBA didn't do brilliantly either. First of all, players were mad; they were forced to be the face of the league and answer those tough questions. Another cost of player empowerment - we were more interested to hear LeBron than Adam Silver.
When they finally spoke, it was revealed the NBA released two statements - one in English supporting freedom of speech, and one in Chinese, a lot more amicable and China-friendly.
Shortening the season, load management, and small markets being competitive are all important to combat the consistent drop in TV ratings the league has been experiencing. I believe having a clear position on doing business in China will turn out to be more significant than all of the above.
In simple terms - if Black Lives Matter, do Uyghur lives matter too?