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Photo by Ian Feldmann.

Freedom is not free: Hoops and Hong Kong

The views expressed in this article are the views of the author.

Currently, the National Basketball Association (NBA) is in the midst of an international crisis, dealing with freedom of expression and speech. Houston Rockets executive Daryl Morey came under fire for tweeting in support of the protests in Hong Kong. On Oct. 8, Morey tweeted, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” referencing the massive pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Since the incident, the NBA published a statement walking in the middle of the issue. The organization refuses to fire Morey, but that is not enough. The NBA must support the protestors in Hong Kong.

Weirdly enough, this international episode garnered bipartisan support for both Morey and the protests in Hong Kong from the United States Congress. A joint statement from an unlikely group of lawmakers — including Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Senators Ben Sasse and Ted Cruz — advises the NBA to suspend all activities in China and reexamine its relationship with the superpower.

This is hard to say, but Cruz is right. The NBA’s defense of China is hypocritical, greedy and pathetic.

The company held progressive stances on issues like social justice in the past. Players and coaches have spoken up against injustice on one occasion or another. LeBron James, Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr have criticized President Donald Trump in post-game conferences. In 2016, the league moved its All-Star Weekend from Charlotte, NC, in response to the state’s new anti-transgender legislation. Two years later, the Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver praised the players’ support of the Black Lives Matter movement. In an interview with CNN, he said, “I think in this day and age, you really do have to stand for something.”

The league’s past stance on progressive issues makes their response — or lack thereof — much more staggering. Morey did absolutely nothing wrong. He advocated for those who couldn’t speak out. He exercised his right to freedom of speech and used it to bring light to a critical issue. Punishing Morey would show the world that nothing stands in the way of the NBA’s profit margins, not even the future and freedoms of Hong Kong citizens.

Defending democracy and the freedoms of speech and expression are the basis of the American ethos. But equality, freedom and liberty should not be exclusive to the United States. What’s right is not always easy. It is always profitable to do the right thing when the right thing is profitable. But it takes courage and risk to go against your own interest to advocate for others. Fighting for freedom is not always convenient. Freedom is not free.

Mutual interests should not be the deciding factor in situations where human lives are at stake. China is currently suppressing the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. There comes a time where profit margins and future growth is not the main priority. The livelihoods of millions of Hong Kong citizens are at risk. The question is, “Should the freedoms we use each and every day be accessible to the people of Hong Kong?” The answer should be a resounding and unfaltering “yes.” The right thing to do is stand with Hong Kong.