China’s fight with the NBA, explained

China’s fight with the NBA, explained


This is Shaq on The Great Wall of China. Here’s Michael Jordan, There are a lot of these. For years, the NBA has been sending teams to China where more people watch
NBA games than in the United States. The purpose is to play basketball, meet Chinese fans, and have players like Rip Hamilton
spread a clear message. The NBA has worked hard to build a successful business in China, but then they almost
lost it all because of a single tweet. It was March of 2000 and President Clinton
was pushing for a trade deal with China, despite concerns about China’s human rights record. “It does deny its citizens fundamental rights
of free speech and religious expression. It does define its interest in the world in sometimes
in ways that are dramatically at odds from our own. Just a decade before, China’s government
put down an uprising at Tiananmen Square. “…human rights not trade!” And in 1999, Americans also had concerns
about China’s record in Taiwan and Tibet. “The Fortune 500 companies are controlling
the American foreign policy in China. This is wrong. It’s gotta stop. President Clinton, we are asking you
to take a courageous position.” But Clinton insisted that doing business with China would have
a positive impact on their human rights platform. “The question is not whether we approve or
disapprove of China’s practices. The question is: What is the smartest thing
to do to improve these practices?” Bill Clinton came to think that engagement,
that trade, that direct contact would have a positive impact on the human rights situation
in China, as well as improving the overall U.S. China relationship. The next year, China joined the WTO. 2001 is important because that’s when the
country enters into the World Trade Organization, which greatly simplifies doing business, not
just with the United States, but with the entire world. The Chinese economy was about to take off. US businesses began investing in China and eventually Chinese companies
would start investing back in the US. As China became richer, as China became more
integrated into the global economy, it became a more important market
for the United States. After 2001, the average Chinese person had
more disposable income as a result of the rapid growth. It was the perfect moment for the NBA to build a business in China and it all started right here. “With the first pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets select Yao Ming from Shanghai, China!” At the time Yao Ming was 21-years old, watching
the NBA draft on a laptop in China. “Can you fully comprehend, for yourself,
for Chinese Basketball, and for the NBA, what it means to be the NBA’s number one overall pick?” Yao was the NBA’s “next big thing” for fans in China, where basketball has been popular ever since
it was introduced by missionaries in the 19th century. When the Communist Party came to power they
banned most Western sports, but basketball was embraced as a national passion. But China never produced a star player… until Yao. “…Yao Ming and company, ready to go…” Now they could watch a Chinese player playing
at the same level of these legendary greats and playing Shaq 200 million Chinese viewers tuned in for his
first game against Shaq and The Lakers. “They’re watching live in Shanghai at
10:30 in the morning as O’Neal goes right at Ming!” Compare that to 9.9 million: the average number
of Americans that watched the NBA Finals that year. “Yao, first touch, for two!” Yao became a household name in China and soon
American companies turned to him for endorsements. “Can Jimmy play? Hi Yao! Jimmy?” “Get a Garmin” “…the new 17-inch powerbook.” Yao’s popularity also helped the NBA develop
their fanbase there. In 2004 The NBA started sending teams on an
annual summer tour of China, where the Houston Rockets became a fan favorite, simply because that was Yao’s team. The tours brought the biggest NBA players
to China and boosted the league’s popularity. For comparison, The NBA
has slightly more Twitter followers than the the next
major sports league in The United States. But in China, the NBA dominates social media
platforms like Weibo. Nearly 500 million people watched NBA games
last year using Tencent, China’s largest streaming platform. That’s more than the entire population of
the United States. In 2019 Tencent and The NBA signed
a deal worth $1.5 billion dollars, almost three times what it was worth five years ago. The people who manage the NBA recognized that
there were tremendous opportunities in China and they worked hard to develop that market
and they have succeeded. Then seven words threatened everything. Daryl Morey is the general manager
of the Houston Rockets and his tweet repeated a phrase
chanted by protesters in Hong Kong. Well this is just about civil liberties, this
is about having a voice in government. What’s wrong with that? And so he thought nothing of tweeting this out,
whereas in China, it was perceived quite differently. It was seen as an effort to break up China,
an effort to weaken China. The Chinese Consulate in Houston
responded by saying they were “deeply shocked by the erroneous comments on Hong Kong”
and asked the Rockets to “correct the error”. Daryl Morey took down his tweet and The Rockets tried to do damage control. “Yeah, We apologize, you know, we love China. We love playing there.” Despite the apology, the government cancelled
NBA broadcasts on Chinese state TV. “CCTV’s sports channel has just announced
that it will suspend the broadcast of any NBA games in China,
including this week’s preseason games.” Tencent also suspended broadcasts
of Houston Rockets games. In Shanghai, workers were tearing down advertisements
for upcoming games And fans protested outside the stadium where
teams were set to play. On social media, a fan posted this video of
himself tearing up tickets to the game in support for the Chinese government. The NBA Commissioner stood behind
Morey at a press conference. “The long held values of the NBA are to
support freedom of expression and, in this case, Daryl Morey, as the general manager
of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right.” But the league undercut their message when journalists were stopped from asking
about the incident afterwards. “I just wonder after the events of this
week and the fallout we’ve seen, whether you would both feel differently about speaking
out in that way in the future?” Foreign businesses in China, have long recognized
that there are red lines that must not be crossed. And traditionally those have been the three
Ts: Taiwan, Tibet, Tiananmen. Three political issues the Chinese government
tries to control messaging around. Companies have learned that if you cross one
of these lines, there is a price to pay. For example, in 2018 Gap was selling this
t-shirt featuring a map of China without Taiwan. After a photo of the shirt was posted online,
Gap apologized and promised to stop selling the “incomplete” t-shirt in a statement
released by People’s Daily: a government newspaper. You’re talking about a one party state that has
the ability to let you in, to expel you, to make you rich. By withholding access to consumers,
China forces foreign companies to apologize and/or change their message
in order to continue selling products. Because China has a population of 1.4 billion,
that usually works. The NBA learned that doing business in China
means playing by their rules and that’s not what US leaders like President Clinton
had envisioned. The hope was that trade with China would open
it up to ideas of democracy and free speech, while making American companies
money at the same time. But as American companies changed their messages
to sell products in China, the risk became importing Chinese censorship.

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About the Author: Oren Garnes

100 Comments

  1. Want to learn more about the NBA's troubles in China? Make sure to listen to this episode of Today Explained, a daily podcast from Vox:

    https://art19.com/shows/today-explained/episodes/19d61e8b-55f6-4f57-a1be-49f8f5bb7828

  2. The trade idea was a failure. China now has far more power and influence than US in many aspects and now these companies are literally tied by leash from China.

  3. Pres.CLINTON NEVER intended to form democracy in CHINA through trade. The trade agreement was STRICTLY FOR PROFIT ! THAT agreement WILL end. CHINA is controlling Asian-Pacific & ancient Silk Roads.

  4. Bill Clinton is a Neoliberal, so is Obama, but the lack of change under Obama hopefully put a final nail in the coffin of people on the left supporting more Neoliberal politicians ala Hillary and co. Time to get Social Democratic like politicans elected in USA again…

  5. What do you expect from the Liberal infested NBA? These "superstars" didnt attend FIBA for team USA and wont even visit the Whitehouse over some childish vendetta versus the president. SELLOUTS.

  6. Everything is cool and all that but China’s is number of pollution and don’t care about his people simple how can a 4 years old is makings shoes for nba players and civilians ??? Is a shame what China represents including unites states for let in this happened and everything for cheap labor

  7. If the country is so afraid of Winnie the Poo that they have to ban the thing, maybe it's not as together as it should be.

  8. To counter China 10x the imports of China then start building companies in Asia to replace the working force of China to SEA and India or Africa US companies should stop being blind with CCP money US should leased these US companies to US not the US companies control the government.

  9. There once was two different schools. One had good behaving students and the other bad ones. They thought that if they would mix the two schools together it would make the bad behaving students become better. The opposite happened.
    This is a real thing. For this reason you should be very careful about dealing with countries with no morals.

  10. Usually not a huge fan of vox but I did enjoy this, they didn’t say it in so many words but it blows my mind to think such a lefty “news outlet” could ever make the argument Clinton is wrong and Trump is right

  11. Tencent is not JUST a "streaming platform" it is one of the most dominant Chinese video game companies and has shares and makes large decisions in almost every multiplayer game you can think of.

  12. If u don't understand the situation, you should be respect others instead of making irresponsible remarks for personal interests!U don't know about the violence in Hong Kong. U don't know how many people have been hurt by supporting the government and the police!You have no idea what they are doing is undermining the rule of law!That‘s why the chinese are angry!

  13. most of china's viewers are seeing the game from 2 TV's. the tv they have in a concentration camp of Muslims, and the other from concentration of Christians and Catholics . there is no freedom in china, all NBA players have been bought out for money. nba players have been silenced for money, so sad. if i dont hear any NBA players call out china then i will stop watching the NBA again. the nba is not good anymore anyways, they got rid of defense and letting players fight. every game looks like a all star game, no defense.

  14. Let’s just save everyone some time shall we?

    China has lots of money and doesn’t support freedom.

    NBA is a business and wants money.

    NBA players and coaches pro freedom comments about Hong Kong are silenced due to China’s threats and bans of the NBA

    NBA forced people to apologize for their pro free Hong Kong comments because again they want money.

    China wins because they are slowly going back on their word and absorbing Hong Kong and ignoring their unique constitution.

    Furthermore China wins because they are making yet another American organization bow to their wishes because of greed.

    Have a great day everyone and happy holidays!!!

  15. Americans might not have censorship, they just flood the mainstream with their lies and yell louder than anyone else

  16. lol, China has only gotten worse every year, worse with human rights abuses, worse with attitude, worse with military arms build up. Honestly China is…. probably the worst behaved country on the planet.

  17. US helped China to become rich and powerful at the cost of US middle class. Now big corps want Chinese market (they 'll never get it, sorry), so US will sell freedom and give China more US jobs. Is it a wonderful system?

  18. All China is trying to do is censor American basketball so they can get theirs going. The thing about China is they play their cultural and social values into business goals. You can’t win in this type of relationship. The more you feed into this behavior, the more grounding they get.

  19. Hong Kong finna be dyin and we be caring about profits over people. The U.S. needs to do something about it, fight for THEIR freedom!

  20. I wasn't expecting to see the Chinese version of "Guy records self destroying personal property because he's mad at corporation over politics" so soon. On the flip side people aren't laughing as much as with the guy burning his own Nikes. They should totally be laughing at that guy.

  21. Bruh.. We couldve been a better world if no media calls people who has love for other countries as "traitors". This is why we dont have nice things

  22. lol you care about freedom and democracy of chinese people? give me a break , you want us in pain and chaos thats what you want and so called democracy movement is just an excuse for you to get that

  23. "Any society that will give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lost both" – Benjamin Franklin

  24. It is not about how the Chinese Government censored NBA. It is about how serious the entire Chinese Nation take our pride. You have your freedom of speech. We have the freedom to respond anyways that are not illegal.

  25. This is not about censorship, this is about respect. Since when supporting separatism in other countries is part of freedom of speech.

  26. Why is when the Chinese public calling for boycotting the NBA it is considered an affront to freedom but it is okay for Americans to call for boycotting NIke when NIke had an ad featuring Colin Kaepernick? Also, didn't Americans also called for boycotting Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and other Fox news personalities? Aren't Chinese people also free to express their displeasure with what they view as foreign interference?

  27. basically fights against injustice are only justified if they make money . if football games had larger fanbase than us kapernick wouldve been shot by nike just to sell more shoes in china

  28. This is Donnie yen in Hollywood, here’s Bruce lee in holly wood, here’s Jackie chan in hollywood. Now this shows China’s push to be in china. However this all could have ended when the us found that China wasn’t a democracy and proposed to nuke China in the Korean War or invade it.

  29. Bill Clinton is right. China government seems not change so far but every mind in China had already grown a seed about a different value. And that's enough, they are Chinese, not the world should have only one but only the American value. The China's young gens have similar good willing and that will make a similar but different path in China's future. Maybe it takes time, but it's changing.

  30. The U.S. sure doesn't have a backbone when it comes to defending its own freedom when China demand marketing corrections.

  31. Have you ever heard a chinese public people said i support white enslave black or i support gun shooting in america? Definitely No. We should respect each other rather than double standard.Maybe it's your freedom to speak, but sometimes your words will offend others

  32. The concept of sophisticated undergoing Hong Kong circumstances being represented by media as endeavoring to democracy and freedom of speech, which is suppressed by Chinese government is merely fallacy of composition. The fundamental motivations that troubled Chinese people are some activists' objectives to separate Hong Kong from China and the violence arises from their remonstrance.

  33. Separatism is a really sensitive topic in China, just like talking racist statement in US. That’s why separating 3T and HK is not acceptable, not just by Chinese Government, also by Chinese people

  34. Very interesting argument and totally open my mind about relationship with China. Chilling thought for the future where China will be the number one country, well its never to late to learn mandarin.

  35. 6:03 he shouldve briefly explained why they view it as efforts in breaking up China. Google partion of China by foreign powers to understand why is China so spektical

  36. “Free of Speech”? Speak for yourself. YouTube has intentionally deleted many pro-China videos and removed subscribers from pro-China youtube channels and this is the free of speech. Please be wise that money plays an important role in modern world. Can you say for sure this video is made without zero intention to catch many Chinese viewers? Do not be fooled my media, have a clear mind.

  37. We don’t need Chinese support for the NBA. Every American should remember the principles that founded this country. As President JFK had said: “Let every nation knows, whether it wishes well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty."

    Morey did the right thing and Hong Kong, Taiwan still got my support.

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