Adam Silver Reveals The Chinese Government Asked Him To Fire Daryl Morey

from the thinning-skinning dept

We've been taken on something of a journey over the past several weeks by China and their thin-skinned government's attempt to pressure everyone into forgetting that Hong Kong exists. Specifically, it seems that Beijing is quite afraid of any person with a platform showing any support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong, which much of the world sees as an attempt to stave off an authoritarian government with a history of human rights abuses. While much of the eSports gaming world has taken the cowardly step to self-censor -- going so far as to punish those competing in a fairly hamfisted manner -- there is also this NBA...thing.

That front of this Orwellian war began when Daryl Morey, GM of the Houston Rockets, tweeted fairly benign support for the protests. The Rockets are quite popular in China, as is the NBA, and China took an opportunity to ape extreme offense at Morey's tweet. This, despite the fact that Twitter is effectively banned and blocked on the Chinese mainland. Despite that fact, the NBA first made unfortunate noises in apologizing to the Chinese government, before Commissioner Adam Silver eventually walked that back after a public backlash. Silver instead came out in support of players and team officials speaking their minds and attempted to retrieve the NBA's one-time position as one of the most progressive and "woke" professional sports leagues in America.

It seems that Beijing really wasn't playing around, however, as Silver revealed in a recent interview that China actually asked him to fire Morey.

In case you cannot watch the video, Silver revealed that China asked him to fire Morey and that he refused. He then went on to note that his recent trip to China in the wake of this controversy was conducted at least in part to give Beijing a firm understanding that his league would not again kneel at the altar of their ginned up hurt feelings. The Deadspin rightly calls this what it is: domestic damage control.

“These American values—we are an American business—travel with us wherever we go,” Silver said. “And one of those values is free expression. We wanted to make sure that everyone understood we were supporting free expression.”

Silver does deserve credit for not firing Morey on the spot, and the NBA certainly has caught more flak despite doing less to mollify China than the scores of other, larger companies who have happily rolled over and shown the Chinese government their bellies. Today’s comments are damage control—not with the Chinese officials he has been dealing with for a week now, but with American fans who are pissed at the league and its most prominent player for playing China’s game.

Indeed. And, while it can be difficult for a money-making organization to show some spine against an adversary wielding the world's second largest economy, stories like this are evidence for exactly what will happen if lines in the sand are not drawn. China, and authoritarian regimes, will demand more and more influence over American companies that should at least pretend to have American values.

Is the NBA some knight on a white horse here? Hell no. But the NBA's reaction to public pressure in America is certainly something that would be welcome in the eSports industry.

Filed Under: adam silver, basketball, censorship, china, daryl morey, free speech, hong kong, protests
Companies: nba

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  1. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 21 Oct 2019 @ 8:23pm

    Never thought I'd ever say this, but it looks like Activision/Blizzard could learn a thing or two from the NBA, as while both of them originally caved and fell over themselves to 'apologize' for offending a bunch of thin-skinned authoritarians the NBA actually grew a spine and rightly took back the 'apology', which while it was almost certainly to reduce the flack they were taking in the US it still significantly more than Activision/Blizzard has done.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 21 Oct 2019 @ 8:57pm


    Some months ago a colleague shared an article with me about a wave of sudden retrenchments in Blizzard which were not explained, largely attributed to Activision's meddling.

    Blizzard might be the public image and taking all the flak, but Activision's involvement likely played a huge part in the recent fuck-ups.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    javchem (profile), 22 Oct 2019 @ 1:14am

    situation getting worse

    Situation is really getting worse and the general public is suffering. It need to be stopped as soon as possible.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2019 @ 5:44am

    Re: situation getting worse

    Don't worry mate, I hear you got that Trump fellow on the case and he's going to negotiate with those awful Chinese. He won't let you down!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    BentFranklin (profile), 22 Oct 2019 @ 6:20am

    First, I don't understand how Silver can even fire Morey. The NBA doesn't employ a team's GM. The most Silver could do is ask the Rockets owners to fire him.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 22 Oct 2019 @ 6:55am


    I imagine that's what he told the Chinese when they asked. "I'd love to help you out, but I don't have that authority. You'll have to speak to the Rocket's owners." Then he turns around and pretends to the American public like he turned them down because he's so damn patriotic.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2019 @ 8:38am

    Re: Re:

    eggs hackley.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2019 @ 8:56am

    Re: Re:

    It's not just likely, it's a certainty. Activision owns Blizzard and China (Tencent) owns a small part of Activision-Blizzard. Gaming is a huge industry in east Asia and there are many, many millions of players, more than the US, more than Europe. That's not a market any international gaming company can afford to ignore and certainly not one part owned by China. Activision and Blizzard were originally US companies, born and raised in the US, so this is all very unfortunate but not at all surprising.

    However, Tencent's 5% stake in Activision-Blizzard only happened recently and doesn't amount to much. It's their control of the Chinese gaming market that Blizzard is bowing down to. Tencent owns Riot Games (League of Legends), has a majority stake in Supercell (Clash of Clans) and Grinding Gear Games (Path of Exile), holds 40% of Epic Games (Fortnite) and on and on. They are the largest gaming company in the world and absolutely dominate the gaming landscape around the world. Pissing them off is bad for business and they, being a Chinese company all but controlled by the Chinese government, have a huge ass all set up for kissing if the need presents itself.

    None of this is really about gaming. It's about sovereignty and globalism. If you want to "solve" the current problem you've got to first do something to limit foreign investment, i.e. to zero. But that's an anti-globalism agenda. Choose: Do you want your cake or to eat it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 22 Oct 2019 @ 9:26am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Do you want your cake or to eat it?

    Cake is no good if you can't eat it. It may as well be plastic. The whole point of having cake is to eat it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Dave P., 22 Oct 2019 @ 9:59am

    Re: coworking space in delhi

    Just what is this load of old rubbish creeping in here. Vote OUT!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2019 @ 10:21am

    Gov stepping up too port-meetings-in-u-s

    ...noted the growing ability of Chinese regulators and an increasingly nationalistic consumer base to restrict the free expression of American companies and individuals, saying such interference was of "grave concern."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 22 Oct 2019 @ 10:22am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    And if you eat it you no longer have it. That's kinda the point of that old saw...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    btr1701 (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 4:05pm

    The Hypocrisy and Bullshit of Corporate Virtue-Signaling

    The NBA's reaction to Morey's expression of support for freedom in Hong Kong (along with some prominent players who have lucrative merchandising deals there... <cough> LeBron <cough>) is a beautiful display of the modern corporate hypocrisy that oozes under the surface of all their 'progressive' value virtue-signaling.

    The NBA-- an organization that moved its all-star game out of Charlotte because North Carolina had a law that said men have to use men's restrooms and women have to use women's restrooms-- is now bending over backward to make nice with a country that brutally represses its entire populace and has over 1 million Muslims and Falun Gong members in concentration camps merely for practicing their religion.

    These companies will suck up to the brutal Chinese dictators while beating their chests about their 'values' here in America. And they're so beholden to Chinese money, they'll even censor Americans on American soil at the behest of their Beijing masters, as the NBA recently did to fans at a game in Washington, DC.

    And the players are no better. The players are so 'woke' they take knees during the national anthem because America is so oppressive, and they won't go to the White House because Trump is "like a dictator", but they don't blink an eye over playing ball in a communist country under a REAL dictator that savagely murders its own citizens for trying to be even the slightest bit free. Nor do they have a problem making millions from merchandising their jerseys and likenesses in China.

    Watching LeBron James carry water for China to protect his revenue flow by calling Morey'uneducated' was an all-new level of hypocrisy and irony, considering Morey has several post-graduate degrees and James didn't even finish high school. Which one is actually the 'uneducated' one of the two?

    And remember when it was 'racist' when Laura Ingraham suggested that James "just shut up and dribble"? Now James is essentially telling Morey to "just shut up and manage", but we get no outrage from the media-- which itself is beholden to Chinese dollars.

    Movie and TV studios and the celebrities that star in their shows self-righteously threaten to boycott Georgia because of the state's abortion laws, but have no problem raking in mountains of cash in China which forces women to have abortions and whose culture makes sure most of the aborted are girls. Where are the #MeToo-ers and feminist celebrities on that? Oh yeah, they're backing truckloads of Chinese cash up to their bank accounts and dumping it in.

    You'll notice that Google has quietly retired its "Don't be evil" motto since it now actively works with the Chinese government to invent new and more effective ways of censoring the internet. At least Zuckerberg, to his credit, told the Chinese to take a hike rather than knuckle under to their censorship and surveillance demands.

    And the single biggest woke fraud in this NBA clusterfuck is Nike-- the company that recently ran an ad campaign called, "Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    JoeCool (profile), 24 Oct 2019 @ 7:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    The old saw is backwards because the way it's commonly used is stupid as I pointed out. The proper way to say it is "you want to eat your cake and have it, too." That makes perfect sense - once you've eaten it, it's gone, so you can no longer have it. Contrarily, saying "you want to have your cake and eat it, too" is a "well, DUH!" kinda statement. Of COURSE I want to eat the cake I have! That's why I have it! So I can eat it. What kind of sick bastard hands you cake and then says "you can have that cake, but absolutely NO EATING IT!" I'd take that cake and shove it in his face.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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