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Trump, blind to nuance, mocks Kerr’s demur answer on China

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Amidst a tense back and forth with huge economic partner, Warriors coach Steve Kerr preaches patience, Trump freaks out

New Orleans Pelicans v Golden State Warriors

Donald Trump just jumped into the fray between the NBA and China, predictably mocking Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr today for not immediately freaking out.

It’s an expected response from the President, who famously mocked a disabled reporter, and makes up childish nicknames for his political and personal opponents - all while running the country into historic debt.

I get it. I wanted the NBA to come out with middle fingers up and mouths popping, but looking tough isn’t always the best way forward. Especially if you aren’t exactly sure what’s going on - a lesson Trump would do well to learn.

Donald, buddy... it’s okay if you don’t know everything. And no, you do not have to freak out about it either.

Taking time to learn before forming an opinion isn’t just allowed, it’s what intelligent people should do. That’s what Steve Kerr did when asked a question yesterday, and it has nothing to do with discussing issues that you already know and live - like criticisms of your own country for example. You’d think Trump, who ran on a campaign slogan assuming America was less than great would understand this.

Stephen Curry gets it. Moments after hearing about Trump’s comment, Curry also took a measured approach saying “something this big... that’s something you’re not just walking into lightheartedly just saying stuff off the cuff.”

This isn’t being “scared like a child,” this is acting like an adult.

2019 NBA Finals - Golden State Warriors v Toronto Raptors
Thinking before answering is ok

On the off chance you’ve missed the source of current tensions between NBA and it’s China partners started when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey sent a tweet, regarding ongoing human rights violations amidst increasingly violent protests in Hong Kong:

Immediately, Chinese state television broadcasters announced that they would no longer be showing Rockets games, the Chinese Basketball Association suspended its relationship with the team, and the biggest social media hub for online basketball, hupu, deleted its Rockets team forum. It was particularly awkward, probably, for the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets - who were scheduled to play in the aforementioned preseason games Thursday in Shanghai and Saturday in Shenzhen.

In response NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a mostly conciliatory response that said in part, “the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them.“ In response, China took a fairly troubling stance, at least by my standards:

“We’re strongly dissatisfied and oppose Adam Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right to freedom of expression,” CCTV said in a statement. “We believe that any remarks that challenge national sovereignty and social stability are not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

It was exactly the sort of totalitarian reaction that I’d expect Kerr to pop off on. From police shootings to presidential invites to the White House, Steve Kerr and the Golden State Warriors have not shied away from being vocal about their views. But instead of railing against China’s heavy-handed actions, Kerr took a more tacit approach in his response. While it may not have been as spicy as we would have liked, I think the response is better under consideration. He essentially says he doesn’t know enough about something that’s happening in another country but that he had asked someone he knew and trusted for some insight.

And Trump somehow reads that as being scared “like a little boy” and that he “couldn’t answer the question.” That is an answer, he’s going to look into it more, and learn enough to have an informed opinion rather than blindly spouting off at the mouth.

I get it though, it’s complicated, and complicated stuff isn’t Trump’s strong suit.

Is this the NBA’s Kaepernick moment?

About three years ago when the NBA was buzzing about the Colin Kaepernick’s anthem protests designed to draw awareness to police killing unarmed minorities without consequence. At the time, the league issued a memo in support of players voicing their opinions, and Kerr went so far to say that Americans should be “disgusted” at the police shootings of unarmed minorities.

As Kerr said at the time, we should all be able to agree that speaking out for a cause you believe in isn’t just allowed, but encouraged. As per Marc Spears for the Undefeated

“It’s a tricky topic. Not the Kaepernick situation, but social activism in general. It has to come from the heart. There are a lot of fans out there that say, ‘Stick to sports. We’re trying to get away from this by watching your team play.’

“I understand that. On the other hand, these guys have a voice. In my mind, as long as the message is clear, I’m all for people speaking out against injustice no matter what form that takes

This was where Trump got confused. Because the Hong Kong protests are related to human rights concerns, clearly it’s in the NBA’s wheelhouse. But that doesn’t mean Kerr is just going to start freaking out right away. He says right there that “it has to come from the heart” and so he’s taking time to learn before speaking. But he will be asked again.

According to analysis from Forbes, NBA in China is valued at something around four billion dollars after just 10 years in existence (and as Klay Thompson can attest to, there are other opportunities there for players on top of this):

NBA China now worth more than $4 billion, or $133 million in value for each team. Look at the Tencent deal. The league singed a $700 million, 5-year deal with the Chinese Internet and tech company in 2015 for Tencent to carry NBA games and other content on its digital platforms. That deal has been so successful that the spend for the NBA will be over $800 million.

It doesn’t take an advanced degree in international business to understand why the NBA would be extra hesitant to step on the toes that are holding up such deep pockets, but it is really hard not to be struck by the dichotomy between how the NBA and Kerr have talked about other social injustices as compared to how they have handled this issue.

Now Anta has announced that they are not renewing player contracts, including Klay Thompson’s, a Sixers fan got booted from a game - in Philadelphia - for holding a fairly mild sign in support of Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the NBA continues to get scrubbed from existence in China.

Don’t judge the NBA just yet.

Look at all the businesses out there that have begun censoring for China. Sure, there are all sort of “not woke” takes out there, but the NBA took another stab at a response letter, and it appears to indicate that the league will not completely kowtow to China. Given the dollars involved, this is actually an increasingly bold response by the NBA:

Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA – and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.

Kerr did punt his answer, but he will speak on this again, rest assured. It hasn’t been the sort of aggressive progressive response we’ve come to expect, but this story is not completely written yet.