President Donald Trump isn’t someone who usually limits his commentary – especially on Twitter – to simply political matters. And one of his favorite subjects on which to opine is sports – the NBA in particular.
“LeBron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon,” Trump tweeted in August 2018. “He made LeBron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
In November 2017, Trump tweeted this: “Now that the three basketball players are out of China and saved from years in jail, LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo, is unaccepting of what I did for his son and that shoplifting is no big deal. I should have left them in jail!”
And just a few months before that, Trump had this to say on Twitter about the Golden State Warriors: “Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team.Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!”
All of which makes Trump’s silence amid a massive controversy over a tweet – since deleted – by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressing support for the pro-democracy Hong Kong protesters all the more intriguing.
Morey’s tweet drew rebukes from the Chinese, and several Chinese businesses suspended operations with the Rockets. On Tuesday, CCTV, which is part of China’s state-run TV service, said they would cease broadcasting playoff games because “we believe any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability do not belong to the category of free speech.”
After a disastrous initial response from the NBA that tried to placate China – a massive consumer of the NBA and its related merchandise, etc. – Commissioner Adam Silver made clear that the league stands behind the right of Morey and its players to express their own opinions. “We are not apologizing for Daryl exercising his freedom of expression,” Silver said in Tokyo on Tuesday, adding: “I do know there are consequences from freedom of speech; we will have to live with those consequences. For those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.”
So Silver – and the broader NBA – got to the right place on the issue (democracy + free speech are more important than pure profit). Eventually.
Which brings me to Trump. As CNN reported last week, Trump, in a call with Chinese President Xi Jinping, promised that the US would stay quiet on the Hong Kong protests while the two countries continued to negotiate a possible end to the ongoing trade war.
File that in the the things-that-make-you-go-hmmm category.
The Point: Adam Silver made clear on Tuesday that principle comes before profit. Will Donald Trump do the same?