Why NBA Equality Stops at the Bottom Line

When you hear equality, you think people getting equal treatment no matter who they are. You think that because it is right in the word. Equality. The NBA and its players do a great job of fighting for equality… within the United States. However, NBA equality does not mean equality for all. NBA equality means equality for the people and causes we care about. This became obvious back in October when the NBA completely and utterly failed when their progressive values came in conflict with their capitalistic values. Darryl Morey was treated as an outcast for taking a stance defending Hong Kong. LeBron James called Morley’s stance, “misinformed,” which should have won 2019’s ironic statement of the year award. Morley was fighting for equality while James was fighting for NBA Equality.

We saw it in action in October and we are seeing it again now in July. The NBA and its players are once again fighting for equality, as they should. Everyone should be fighting for equality at all times. If you are fighting for equality, you are doing this whole thing right. However, the NBA’s focus is specifically on equality for black and/or disenfranchised Americans. That is not true equality, that is NBA equality. Ask the NBA to put the message, “Free Kap” on the back of a jersey and you are good to go even though Colin Kaepernick is absolutely a free man who can do as he pleases. But type in “FreeHongKong,” which is currently under the thumb of the despotic Chinese government, and you will never get your jersey or jersey message approved.

That is just Hong Kong, which is fighting for true freedom and true equality against an actual authoritarian government (unlike the NBA and the vast majority of its players; Enes Kanter is a different story). Worse is the NBA’s and its players’ deafening silence on the plight of the Uyghurs in China. The NBA is not simply silent on the matter–something that would be a disgrace in of itself–but is actively silencing messages opposing China. To clarify, an organization and its members that go around preaching equality are actively making it harder for others to get across their message of equality. That is NBA equality; equality for me, but not for thee.

NBA Equality Deserves Backlash Impugns its Own Message

When you spend your time fighting for equality, you cannot pick and choose what is important and what is not. There is this odd notion going around that we can only handle one cause at a time, but that is simply not true. It is entirely possible to go around fighting for black equality, social justice, etc. while also crying out for Uyghurs getting herded into trains and getting sent to “re-education” camps like it is Poland circa 1942. There is nothing stopping the NBA and its players from doing both… except their bottom line.

The NBA has a massive investment in China both in terms of TV deals and a desire to get their game and product into the hands of more than one billion people living there. When Darryl Morey fired off his pro-Hong Kong, pro-Freedom tweet, the NBA and its players took umbrage because it was a slash through their bottom line. How could an organization and its members–that care so much about equality–come out against freedom and equality? Because the NBA is a business with smart men and women who deeply care about their bottom line.

In a vacuum, there is nothing wrong with that… at all. However, when you have made it your mission to preach the philosophy of fairness and equal rights for all, and then you do the opposite of that, it hurts your overall message and you impugn yourself. Why would somebody think you and your message are worth adhering to when you make it abundantly clear your values only go so far? NBA equality hurts messages of actual equality. The same way a rabbi engaging in illicit activities makes you doubt the sincerity of his overall message.

Fighting for equality is hard, but it is also the right thing to do. When there are so many instances of terrible behavior and crimes occurring throughout the world, it is the job of good-hearted people to cry out and shed light on those atrocities. NBA players are spot on in their message for equality in America (even if you disagree with the “how” it is impossible to disagree with the statement, “We all deserve to be equal”).

The problem is the coinciding message that they care only so long as their wallets are not affected. That stance detracts from their original and good message. If you want to fight for equality, you have to be prepared to fight and stand up for others even when you do not have a stake in the game and even when your message might financially hurt you. Otherwise, your message gets diluted, and nobody wants that… especially if your original message is worth the fight.