Basketball Diplomacy Meets Market Reality for the NBA
Lebron just couldn't help himself. He just had to put in his two cents on China's fight with the NBA.
My team and this league just went through a difficult week. I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it.— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 15, 2019
James now says he wasn't questioning the content of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey's own tweet that started everything. Morey, for those unaware, sent a since-deleted tweet of support for the Protesters in Hong Kong. Lebron is now trying to say he just thought some time should've passed before Morey stirred things up. A week. That's Lebron James' prescription. All would have been well had Daryl Morey wait one week before expressing support for protests China's President Xi Jinping says will be met with crushing bones into dust.
Something tells me a week wouldn't have mattered. I doubt Lebron James thinks it would have either. He, like the NBA and lots of major Corporations, is just desperately grasping at straws right now.
10% of the NBA's Revenues comes from China. And that number had been growing fast with no end in sight. For NBA Players, including Lebron James, China is a huge potential for endorsement money. They're burning Lebron James jerseys in Hong Kong. But there's 10 more sales waiting from Mainland China for every one burned on the island.
But what happens to Lebron here in the US and throughout the rest of the World. And, for that matter, the NBA. Both are taking a beating for not showing the love to Hong Kong Protesters. How badly?
Consider for a moment that the Bill expressing support for those Protesters in Hong Kong has just received a Unanimous Vote in the House of Representatives. Can anyone think off the top of their head when anything ever received Unanimous Support from the House? Even the Vote after 9/11 didn't.
That, Ladies & Gentlemen, is how much support Congress knows those Protests in Hong Kong and all those Young Protesters risking their lives there have with the American People. They have inspired America.
They just haven't inspired American Business enough to get it to risk losing the Chinese Market. Even President Trump has been busy trying to make deals to sell food and a few other things to China ahead of a full Trade Agreement. A Trade Agreement unlikely to be stalled by a little thing like the Chinese Communist Government crushing Democracy in Hong Kong. Sympathy's all well & good and all. But Business is Business.
Winnie-the-Pooh Banned In China
They Got Winnie-the-Pooh. They Can Get You Too.
China banned all references to Winnie-the-Pooh because some People were drawing comparisons to Pooh's look and Xi's face. And that was that. The 8000 year old Culture showed just how immature it was capable of being.
After Morey's tweet supporting the Hong Kong Protesters, China temporarily blacked out NBA Games and threatened to push the league out if it didn't feel adequately kissed up to. But we've seen many times that when China gets this way, there never is any amount of sucking up and apologizing for offenses real and imagined to satisfy Beijing. Now the NBA is fighting among itself while China continues to flex its Market Muscles.
Sooner or later, someone has to call Beijing's bluff. This can't keep going this way. The NBA spent alot of years on "Basketball Diplomacy" and on building support in China. But perhaps the league has learned that its efforts at Diplomacy were probably wasted.
And its Market in China can be taken away in the time it takes for the Beijing Government to throw another tantrum.
Your guess is as good as the NBA's. If it makes China happy, it loses everyone else. Including America. Politicians who can't agree on anything agree on supporting Hong Kong Democracy. This leaves the NBA and all of those Companies, from Nike to Apple, taking an enormous gamble that all of their Customers outside of China won't be angered enough to take it out on their sales.
China's a great big Market. But there's an even bigger World out there. And right now, China is facing anger from most of it.