Two of the people not quoted in it ESPN’s nearly flawless play on Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai’s troubled ties with China — including a company under his company’s umbrella that develops facial recognition software that may or may not have been equipped with a “Uyghur alarm” to alert police to an individual that the Chinese government set up border concentration camps were Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.
I call the article by Marc Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru that came out Thursday almost perfect, because how can you read it and not think about what Brooklyn’s two biggest stars would have to say about it. Neither shies away from a question or voices their opinion, and both have endorsement deals with Nike, which have a shady history of doing business in the country, which accounts for 19 percent of their revenues.
Irving even considered boycotting Nets exhibition games 2019 in China on the heated political climate and freedom of expression issues in Hong Kong. Its owner has a quote in the ESPN story that says, “In the American context, we’re talking about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, but in the Chinese context, the ability to restrict some of those freedoms is an important element of maintaining stability.” “
The entire article paints Tsai, number 2 at China’s quasi-governmental “Amazon on steroids” Alibaba, as the mouthpiece of the Chinese government. The most scathing companies under Alibaba I alluded to above are Megvii and Sensetime, and both have been blacklisted in the US for their business practices, making them illegal for Americans to invest in, but the parent company has theirs Participation in neither sold . (Alibaba has been careful not to hold board seats at the companies, if that’s any consolation.) The NBA has a deal to sell licensed apparel on Alibaba, because of course they do.
Every time an article is written about the NBA’s biggest international business partner, there’s a lot of trouble at the league office, and shockingly, Adam Silver, Daryl Morey and Tsai all declined to comment on the story. (Durant and Irving weren’t even mentioned in the story, which, to be fair, wasn’t about them. I need to keep those player relationships alive.)
If you’re wondering why Morey’s name was mentioned, it’s because he penned the pro-Hong Kong tweet that almost got him fired. Tsai reportedly pushed for Morey’s ouster behind the scenes at the NBA as a peace offer to China. He denies it, but he also contributed to the false narrative that the protesters were violent and essentially attempted their own Jan. 6 uprising, even posting an open letter to NBA fans on Facebook saying Morey support a separatist movement so we know where he stands.
I want to hear how Durant feels about his boss just for being honest and thoughtful, but I really want to hear how Irving stands – for who “Four things, human: inner peace, freedom, equality and world peace” — justifies why he’s sat for months over a vaccine but hasn’t said shit about the Nets being the NBA team most visibly linked to China.
The guy uses a walking stick, disguises himself as an old man, and burns sage before games. He’s the player most likely to walk away from basketball with Ricky Williams, “I’m too crisp for that” shit. If ever there was a moment to face one of your core principless, it’s right after a scathing article exposed your employer and just before the other employer goes into the playoffs.
The devil on his shoulder told him to stand with anti-vaccinationists, and the angel on the other side takes dirty money from Tsai and Nike shoe stores. It’s easy to poke holes in Irving’s stance, and the explanation he gave for sympathizing but not standing with the protesters who turned out at the Barclays Center in 2019 to protest the Nets owner makes it even easier.
“I understand that Hong Kong and China are each dealing with their own problems,” said Irving (via ESPN). “But there’s enough repression in America and such that I don’t have to get involved in community affairs here, too.”
He had a closed meeting with Silver about China after the protests, but didn’t elaborate on what was said, telling reporters he “left it in this room.”
I don’t get enough outrage to denounce every injustice. If you wake up every day worrying about all the pain and suffering that is endured on this planet, you must leave Twitter, but also how do you function? Do you walk around crazy all day? And who are you more angry at: the people who do the bad things or the people who don’t seem to care? The life of a lawyer is really tough, which is why it is literally a profession. (And also why Enes Freedom should take a long look at it if the way he’s going about his career transition is helpful at all.)
What’s special about Irving is that he sees himself as one “Voice for the voiceless.” The kind of person who gets moved by problems enough to sit out most of a season for a mandate. Maybe he’s influenced by all of Tsai’s good deeds in the community, which I should mention because the Nets owner has donated millions to fight anti-Black and Asian racism in America.
That philanthropy might be enough for Irving to trust that his boss is genuinely acting in the best interests of the Chinese people — who, if you hear Tsai spin it, 80 to 90 percent of them are “very, very happy that their lives are improving.” every year.” Houston Texans owner Cal McNair recently tried to improve his team’s image with charitable donations to HBCUs, and logical people don’t fall for it.
For Tsai, it’s so easy to gloss over the other 10 to 20 percent, the Uighur Muslims who are currently experiencing “cultural genocide,” and the people of Hong Kong who want the democracy they’ve been promised, like Irving, when the paychecks and the League look the other way. “Don’t talk about China,” proclamations roll in.