And on it goes. In recent posts we’ve contrasted the courage of Hong Kong protesters – who are putting their lives on the line to risk the growing encroachments on their freedoms by the government in Beijing – with the readiness of American individuals and firms that do business with China to sell out the idea of liberty for a buck.
Since American sports are so big in the PRC, many of these latest stories of cravenness and cowardice have had to do with athletics. We’ve seen that the NBA and ESPN have both been lightning-quick to sacrifice any pretense of principle in order to avoid offending Xi’s tyrannical regime. Well, here’s more. On October 10, Reason magazine’s Eric Boehm reported that two different sports arenas in the U.S. had ejected fans protesting the Communist Chinese attempt to crush liberty in Hong Kong. On October 8, it happened at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center, where Sam Wachs and his wife, who had bought tickets to a preseason game between the Philadelphia 76ers and a visiting Chinese team, the Guangzhou Loong Lions, displayed small signs reading “Free Hong Kong.” Security guards were quick to give the Wachses the heave-ho.
The next night, the same Chinese team were in Washington, D.C., for another game, in this case against the Washington Wizards. This time there were several protesters. They wore t-shirts bearing slogans in support of the Hong Kong protesters and unfurled a “Free Hong Kong” banner. When the banner was confiscated, they waved a homemade sign reading “Google Uighurs,” a reference to the current internment by the Communist Chinese government of more than a million adherence of that Muslim minority. That effort, too, was quashed.
As Boehm pointed out, the NBA’s aggressive treatment of what was frankly a small number of protesters at a couple of U.S. basketball game has only served to draw attention to China’s perfidy and to the NBA’s eagerness to do China’s bidding. On October 10, the New York Post ran an op-ed by one of the Washington protesters, Jon Schweppe, who explained that he and some friends had decided to stage a protest at the Washington game after reading about what happened to the Wachese in Philadelphia. The sight of NBA thugs “groveling to a totalitarian regime and censoring…fans” in Philadelphia, of all places, “home of the Constitutional Convention and the Liberty Bell,” had gotten his dander up. Would the NBA, he wondered, dare to treat supporters of freedom the same way in the nation’s capital?
The answer came quickly. When he and his pals unfurled their banner, they were told by NBA reps: “We respect your freedom of speech, but…we don’t have any stance on [Hong Kong]. So we’re just asking not to have any signage related to that in here tonight.” The little sign about the million-plus imprisoned Uighurs didn’t please the NBA bosses either. “My friend,” writes Schweppe, “pleaded that we were simply seeking to educate some of the NBA officials, coaches and players, many of whom had expressed ignorance about the issue. It was in vain: The supervisor still confiscated the sign and told us that if we continued to disrupt the game, we would be ejected.” Instead, Schweppe and his friends just chose to leave. Good for them for standing up for freedom. Shame on the NBA for putting its profits first.