Last Friday, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted an image with the statement, “Fight for Freedom: Stand with Hong Kong.”
Facing such pressure on his business, for making a perfectly American statement, for providing exactly the kind of moral support that Hong Kong protestors are asking for and should expect from citizens of the world’s greatest democracy, Morey has been pressured to delete and apologize for his statement:
I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives [Daryl Morey, tweet, 2019.10.07; quoted in Scott Neuman, “Houston Rockets GM Apologize for Tweet Supporting Hong Kong Protesters,” NPR, 2019.10.07].
Imagine if on July 7, 1776, Thomas Jefferson, realizing the damage his July 4 missive on human and political rights would do to his business interests, had dismissed his July 4 declaration as “merely one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have since had the opportunity to consider other perspectives.” In Jefferson’s case, the other perspectives would have been, King George is right; all men are not created equal, and we should be rounded up and flogged or shot for daring to fight for political reforms. Stability, development, and wealth are more important than freedom.
China seeks to subordinate democratic values to capitalistic—or, if you wish to fuss about China’s Communist status, materialistic—desires. When an American capitalist voices support for democracy, China hits him in the wallet, and the American capitalist and his company and industry fall all over themselves to negate American values in a pile of capitulatory and profit-preserving relativism.
Permit me to offer a radical stance, not one that I’m prepared to ensconce in absolute and perpetual policy, but one I’d like you to consider:
Because trade with China creates pressure on American businesses not to voice support for American values, trade with China should be severely restricted.
America’s security depends first and foremost on the worldwide promotion and adoption of its values of equality, liberty, and democracy. International commerce also supports American security, but not when it silences American values.
If Donald Trump saw American interests as his primary concern, he could use this idea to justify much broader tariffs and other economic sanctions on China. Impose an entertainment-export tax on athletes and other performers going to China to put on shows. Assess a democracy-insurance tax on American businesses placing factories in China. Dedicate all of those funds and proceeds from all the current tariffs to a World Free Speech fund, which can be used to compensate American citizens who suffer commercial retaliation from foreign regimes for exercising their First Amendment rights and promoting equality, liberty, and democracy around the world.
Alas, rather than using the NBA/Hong Kong/China controversy as an opportunity to lead an intelligent conversation about American principles and trade policy, he defaults to his selfish and unstatesmanly focus on insulting individuals who aggrieve him personally.
American businesses have to make hard choices about what matters. If selling tickets and jerseys to 500 million customers is going to stop American businesses from holding certain truths to be self-evident and encouraging others in their potential markets to do the same, then perhaps we should prevent those businesses from making choices that are bad for America.
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To their credit, the NBA isn’t all quislings. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at least isn’t trying to fire Morey.
…In related news, Apple has pulled HKmap.live from its app store, because, the company says, criminals are using it to track Hong Kong police and “target and ambush police” and “threaten public safety.” Protestors can also use the app to protect themselves with what should be public information about the whereabouts of public officials.