In Thursday’s paper, our own Josh Beasley had a column in which he was touting how LeBron James was the greatest basketball player of all-time. Apparently, he had gotten into a social-media argument with our former sports editor Josh “The Guru” Nichols, who thinks Michael Jordan is the greatest of all time. My thought is this: the days of caring about the NBA are over.
Professional and college sports organizations and leagues beware. What has happened to the National Basketball Association should be a warning to all that if you disrespect your fanbase, your country and your flag, you will pay a horrific price.
Viewership of this year’s NBA Finals featuring the league’s most popular team, the Los Angeles Lakers, as well as the league’s most popular player, James, was down a whopping 70 percent, and most Americans wouldn’t shed a tear if the league simply faded away.
Make no mistake about it, the sinking ratings for the NFL, MLB and NBA are all self-inflicted wounds. If sports professionals and the sports organizations they play for want to become political activists instead of simply doing what they are getting paid for (playing a game) then they will pay a hefty price.
The NBA is paying the biggest price because out of all of the sports leagues, its players have been the biggest offenders of ramming their activism down the throats of their fanbase (both on their jerseys and on the court) and they have also been the most hypocritical.
The NBA decided early on that it was going to not only support “Black Lives Matter,” it was going to make it a part of the fabric of the game by painting it large and proud right on the court. It didn’t seem to matter that the term “Black Lives Matter” was first coined by a group that advocated for the murder of police officers. It didn’t matter that the group, along with Antifa, has been responsible for rioting, looting, burning and causing havoc in cities across America. It didn’t matter that the name itself is racist because, as any decent human being knows, every human being’s life matters, no matter what color they are.
But what really pushes the NBA above and beyond other sports leagues that are pushing the left-wing false narrative that the United States is systematically racist is pure hypocrisy. The NBA, which takes every opportunity to criticize the country that literally invented its sport and made its players outrageously wealthy and famous, refuses to condemn or even criticize the legitimate and severe human rights abuses of its cash-cow China.
LeBron James and his cohorts, who claim to be social-justice warriors when it comes to the United States, suddenly lose their backbone for such matters when it comes to China. In October 2019, when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, China quickly threatened to pull their millions in endorsement deals. NBA players showed that it’s money, not social justice that really matters. Houston star James Harden quickly responded, “We apologize. You know, we love China.” And “King James” took the opportunity to chide Morey with this diddy: “So just be careful what we tweet and what we say and what we do. Even though, yes, we do have freedom of speech, it can be a lot of negative that goes with it.”
According to James, one has to be careful with words when it comes to politely criticizing a totalitarian communist country that is known for human rights violations; however, no need to be careful when it comes to supporting a group that chants “Pigs in a blanket. Fry ’em like bacon” and “What do we want? Dead Cops! When do we want them? Now!”
Also, according to James, it is OK to blast the home country that has made you a multimillionaire, offend those who fought for your freedom by kneeling during its anthem and call it systematically racist in spite of recently having a two-term black president. But how dare you criticize a foreign totalitarian communist country that has tortured those who dissent, forced their LGBTQ citizens into “conversion therapy” and intimidate, harass and imprison those who defend human rights, as well as their families. Hypocrisy at its very worst.
But it isn’t just the players. Dallas Mavericks’ owner Mark Cuban, who has said he may one day run for president, was recently interviewed by former FoxNews host Megyn Kelly, who asked, “Why would the NBA take $500 million-plus from a country that is engaging in ethnic cleansing (the Chinese are trying to wipe out a minority Muslim group known as ‘Uighurs’)?”
Cuban answered, “So, basically you’re saying nobody should do business with China ever.”
When Kelly pushed him with, “Why won’t you just answer my question?” Cuban finally gave a truthful answer: “Because they are a customer. They are a customer of ours, and guess what, Megyn, I’m OK with doing business with China. And so we have to pick our battles. I wish we could solve all the world’s problems, but we can’t.”
And there you have it from the horse’s mouth — China is a valued customer of the NBA, while Americans are not. The NBA is willing to go over the top in its misguided criticism of the greatest country in the world — a country that openly values freedom, equality, liberty and justice for all — but it won’t say a word to condemn a totalitarian communist country that is one of the worst offenders of human rights and one that openly practices ethnic cleansing. Disgusting, pathetic hypocrites of the worst kind.
The NBA has spoken and Americans have answered by tuning out. With ratings for the NBA Finals down 70 percent and garnering the same number of viewers as a documentary on ESPN about the Micheal Jordan-era Bulls, it’s fair to say that the NBA is dead here in the USA.
I’m guessing that in the future, very few of us are going to care how many championships LeBron wins for the Beijing Lakers. However, I can assure you that if they do move to China, the NBA won’t be painting “Uighur Lives Matter” on the playing surface.
Jim Cegielski is publisher of the Leader-Call. He lives in Laurel.