Let’s Hope the NBA’s China Debacle Removes Our National Blind Spot From That Country’s Monstrous Abuses


I’ve never been enamored with America’s fascination with celebrity punditry.

The bulk of it comes from the left, if or no other reason than because the politics of our entertainment and media industries lean so heavily that way. The right also has no problem becoming enamored with the blustery pronouncements of some famous person.

I mean, Republicans nominated and then elected Donald Trump, right?

My objections on this front amount to spitting into the wind. Our society is not going to stop fetishizing the inane activism of people like Colin Kaepernick or Kanye West any time soon.

It is what it is.

If this stuff is going to matter, is it not fair to at least expect these loudmouth celebrities to have the courage of their convictions?

Witness NBA coach and former Chicago Bulls great Steve Kerr, who has no problem using his platform in professional basketball to lecture us all about the evils of gun ownership (among other issues), suddenly playing dumb when it comes to the atrocities committed by the Chinese regime his sports league just happens to have some very lucrative business arrangements with:

It takes a special kind of dumb to suggest, as Kerr does, that somehow the United States is on an equivalent moral footing with China. Remember, here in the U.S., people like Kerr are free to be as outspoken as they want on controversial topics. Kerr could let President Trump have it daily and fear no state-sanctioned reprisals.

Is that true of Chinese basketball coaches?

No, and that’s the difference.

“We’re fortunate in this country to have free speech. I exercise that,” Kerr says by way of defending himself for his silence on China. “But part of having free speech is also electing not to speak if you don’t feel comfortable about something.”

That’s fair, I suppose, but also pretty convenient. Kerr is not a stupid person, and it’s not like there’s anything all that complicated about the fact that China has put Uighurs and other Turkic Muslims into concentration camps as part of a state-sponsored campaign to erase them from the history books.

This is a fact. This is happening, and it’s just one facet of the Chinese regime’s malevolence.

Kerr, like many celebrities, wants it both ways. He wants to be taken seriously when he speaks out about gun violence in the United States, but play the ‘I’m just a dumb basketball coach’ card when it’s something a bit harder to speak of.

He’s not alone in this, and it’s not just the folks in the NBA doing it, nor is this willful blindness to China’s abuses a recent phenomenon. For decades the foundation of America’s relationship with China was business. We believed that if we did business with them, if we sold them soybeans and exported our movies and culture to them, China would be a better global neighbor. We supposed this would knock the rough edges off the Chinese regime and bring them around to a more classically liberal sort of society.

This has backfired spectacularly. Our trade with China has served as fuel for their authoritarianism. Rather than exporting our values to them, as National Review’s Jim Geraghty has been saying recently, they’re export theirs to us.

When politicians and business leaders talk about China it’s all economics. Steel prices and soybean markets. Not even the Trump administration, which kicked off a trade war with China, talks about the country’s abuses. This tweet, in particular, suggests we cannot count on President Trump to stand on principle with China:

Since when does the American president congratulate an abusive Communist regime on their anniversary?

Since now, I guess.

It makes me think of the way many American political and business leaders spoke of Germany in the prelude to the American intervention in World War II. Germany was a lucrative market, and so many we were willing to pretend they didn’t see the Nazis for the sake of steadying the apple cart.

If nothing else comes from this Chinese debacle for the NBA, I hope it ends the time when we ignored what the Chinese regime is when talking about our policies toward it.