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 by Jon Burras
The NBA and the White Elephant
2020 Spectator Ron - The Spectator All Rights Reserved
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      If you did not see it this week then you were the only one to have missed it. Across the globe nearly everyone witnessed a giant white elephant in the middle of the room. This white elephant was so large and distinguished it could be seen from the corporate boardrooms of America to the factories of China.
      The white elephant is an analogy long used in the therapy community. When there is an alcoholic or drug addict in your family or close personal circle most everyone knows about it but seldom does anyone bring it up. Nobody wants to be the odd man out and have to get rid of this monstrous beast that all have to walk around. Often the person who brings up the fact that there is a giant white elephant in the middle of the room gets blamed for ruining the secret.
      The NBA (National Basketball Association) had a white elephant experience this week. The general manager of the Houston Rockets NBA franchise, Daryl Morey, "tweeted" out that he was in support of the protestors in Hong Kong. If you had not noticed the democratic enclave of Hong Kong, while still a part of China, has been having massive and violent protests the last few months. The Hong Kong protestors are rebelling because they believe that many of their personal freedoms are being taken away by the mother country (China) which is acting like a big bully. When Daryl Morey made his gesture in support of the Hong Kong protestors he was expressing his Constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech (guaranteed in America but not in China).
      The reaction to Daryl Morey's "tweet" could not have been more divisive and reactive than the burning of the American flag or peeing on George Washington's grave. Almost every person in the NBA (executives, owners, players, coaches), Chinese officials and corporate spokespeople went unhinged. How could Daryl Morey mention the white elephant without first consulting with us?
     The bottom line is this. China has a very poor and well-documented human rights history. From the violent conquering of independent Tibet, to the million or so ethnic Muslims in "re-education" camps, to the crack down on free speech and free internet, China has attempted to silence all critics of its abuses. And yet many large American and international corporations continue to claim that they are socially responsible and politically active yet still choose to do business with China.
     The NBA, its players, coaches, teams and shareholders, along with shoe corporations and others, salivate at the thought of 1.2 billion Chinese who might buy their designer shoes or designer jerseys. Once the NBA season is over many super star players run to China to promote their shoes and other apparel. The money is incredibly lucrative. What Daryl Morey had brought up was this giant conflict that the NBA has—to follow the socially conscious and awareness attitude that they have begun or to follow their wallets, shut their mouths and pretend that there is no white elephant in the room. The NBA, through the commissioner (Adam Silver) and other spokespeople, has decided that money talks and they are not willing to be complicit in the white elephant story as long as they can all pad their wallets even more.
     The NBA and shoe companies are not alone in this tail wagging behavior. Companies like Google, Tesla, General Motors, Apple and Microsoft all do business in China and makes lots of money doing so. The secret is that these companies must shut their mouths about political crimes, abuses and lack of a free voice. If you want to make lots of money in China you must bend over for the Chinese or it is "adios" you go. Most of these American and international corporations just keep silent and collect the money.
This is one method of how China is learning how to control the world by silencing its critics. It is believed that anyone can be paid off by dollars and if enough money is involved American companies will swallow their voices and allow abuses to continue.
     The sad reality is that Daryl Morey, the man who brought up the fact that there was a giant elephant in the room, was demonized beyond belief. Some sportscasters and players thought he should have been punished, reprimanded or even fired. Some players and coaches went public to apologize to the Chinese to say that Daryl Morey was not informed and made a mistake. Some even went so far as to say that Daryl Morey did not know what he was talking about and that he should have been more informed (and more silent).
     It is amazing at the level of codependence, cover-up and shaming that the entire NBA and corporate spokespeople went to so that this story was buried and we would never have to mention the white elephant again. They say in the alcoholic community that those who support the alcoholic are just as sick as he is. Could it be that the entire NBA (and corporate America) is in need of a giant intervention right now to set things straight. Are we not drunk on greed and that is clouding our thinking?
     Daryl Morey could have been a hero if he had not honored his bosses' demand that he apologize to the giant Chinese propaganda machine. The NBA could have shown historic leadership by placing their values in the right places. But none of that happened. The NBA, corporate sponsors, players and coaches walked away with their tails between their legs. Better to be well paid and a "slime ball" than a poor hero.
     The sad notion in all of this is that the next day the NBA stadiums were filled with exuberant fans. Millions of dollars in shoes and jersey sales continued. Money flowed again in outrageous numbers. Fans did not mind if their heroes showed lack of integrity and honor. What does that say about us Americans? The NBA, Nike and other corporations still continue to market themselves as socially responsible companies (and we still believe them). When will this illusion be realized that they are not? The next time you see a white elephant in the middle of the room, what would you do?