The Hypocrisy of the NBA and ESPN

Here’s the number one thing that I see on social media when conservative politics get brought up while discussing things such as the NBA, their recent outrage, and well-deserved criticism of their business dealings with China:

“Don’t make the NBA all political!”

– Random People on Twitter

Unfortunately, the old days of Michael Jordan’s “Republicans buy sneakers too” outlook is diminished and no longer exists in current society. The NBA has made itself a political pawn of the alt-left, using the sports platform to speak out on social justice issues almost constantly while turning a blind eye to anti-Semitism, the Chinese government (and their injustices that forced them to “shut up and dribble” while playing league games in China), police deaths and reform, the US Military, and human trafficking in America today.

The NBA has put itself in a horrible position and yet they are standing firm on their hill. Athletes that have followed suit from Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, the big-bad Pistons in the ’90s, Kobe Bryant, etc, have all focused on being “more than an athlete.” That’s great, but it’s not a great look when you turn a blind eye to horrific injustices to make your millions upon millions of dollars – like LeBron James.

Sir Charles Barkley speaks out

Turner Sports NBA analyst and former NBA star player, Sir Charles Barkley, publicly criticized the NBA’s social justice campaigns, saying that the NBA is “turning into a circus.”

“Instead of talking about racial equality,” Barkley said, “racial justice and economic justice, we spend all our time worrying about who’s kneeling, what’s being said on buses, and what’s being said on jerseys. I think we’re missing the point.”

Barkley also spoke about how that Jordan mantra no longer exists. “We are a divided country. Sports used to be a place where fans could go and get away from reality.”

Instead, fans leave work, social media, and the constant enamoring of politics from FOX News, CNN, and MSNBC, and get more politics shoved down their throat while trying to enjoy sports games. It’s nice that the NBA wants to do things for social justice, but the main issue that most take with their handling of it is that the messages that can be made by players are limited to only certain social justice issues.

The perception that is left by the league is that they don’t really care about the issues.

Clay Travis and Outkick publicized the fact that the NBA store wouldn’t let you buy a custom jersey that said “FreeHongKong” but it would allow you to purchase a jersey that said “FuckPolice” or “FreeHongKonu.” Back in the early months of the NBA season, anyone with a sign saying anything about Hong Kong or the Muslim Uyghurs, who are currently forced into slave labor in, were kicked out of NBA stadiums.

The company that supplies the NBA their uniforms and the majority of their equipment, Nike, uses this forced and free labor to make the equipment used in the NBA. It’s interesting considering players aren’t allowed to speak on the enslaved Uyghurs, who are enslaved simply for the reason of their religion.

Not only are they forbidden from answering questions on the topics, but it’s forbidden to be discussed by any credentialed media. In foreign countries (like Japan, where the above incident took place) this is a very big issue. The NBA is silent on these international issues while trying to grow the game to those foreign countries.

Jersey Messages for Certain Social Justice Issues

The NBA announced in early July that the league would be allowing players to place custom messages in place of their name the first four nights of the NBA re-start in Orlando. The list of league-approved messages included 29 specific phrases;

Black Lives Matter
Say Their Names
I Can’t Breathe
Power to the People
Justice Now
Say Her Name
Si Se Puede (Yes We Can)
See Us
Hear Us
Respect Us
Love Us
Listen To Us
Stand Up
I Am A Man
Speak Up
How Many More
Group Economics
Education Reform

Several NBA players opened up about how disappointing the list was and claimed that the NBA never gave them a chance to weigh in on what messages they would like to put on the back of their jerseys. Boston Celtics guard Jaylen Brown said he was “very disappointed in the list.” Philadelphia 76ers forward Mike Scott was much more upset with the list, calling it “terrible.”

Adam Silver responded in defense:

“We sat down with the executive committee of the Players Association, they proposed particular terms to us and we worked through it with them that those messages would be included on their jerseys. And incidentally, I understand people could differ but I don’t view them as political messages.”

Adrian Wojnarowski and Missouri Senator Josh Hawley

Missouri Senator Josh Hawley penned an open letter to the NBA asking why the league was suppressing players from being able to put certain messages on their jerseys. “Conspicuously missing from the list,” Hawley penned, “of approved phrases are any in support of the victims of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including the people of Hong Kong, whos remaining freedoms are being extinguished by the CCP’s newly-enacted national security law.”

Hawley included five questions that he requested answers for before July 29th, 2020. “Is the NBA prepared to allow it’s players to wear phrases in support of the United States, the American military, and US law enforcement personnel?” he asked. “Will it censor players from wearing such messages?”

ESPN’s top NBA insider, Adrian Wojnarowski, immediately responded to an email sent by Hawley to all relevant NBA media with a quick “Fuck you.” Clearly, the response was sent from his work email with his ESPN address. Senator Hawley immediately posted the response on Twitter for all to see.

“Don’t criticize #China or express support for law enforcement to @espn,” Hawley tweeted with the screenshot. “It makes them real mad.”

ESPN suspended Wojnarowski for an undisclosed amount of time, and both the company and Wojnarowski published apologies on social media. “I was disrespectful and I made a regrettable mistake,” Wojnarowski wrote. “I know my actions were unacceptable and should not reflect on any of [my co-workers at ESPN].”

ESPN and their Internal Racism

Kevin Draper published a piece on Monday, July 13th, in the New York Times entitled ESPN Employees Say Racism Endures Behind the Camera. “The nationwide conversation over systemic racism and equality,” wrote Draper, “has prompted a series of discussions and forums at ESPN, where Black employees, many of them behind cameras, have begun speaking out about the everyday racism and barriers they face at the sports media giant.”

The main points to take away from the article:

  • A key producer at ESPN watched so many white people get promoted over black people that she advised black people to leave the company to advance their careers.
  • In a conference call, Maria Taylor spoke about her treatment at ESPN and a white announcer, not realizing his microphone wasn’t muted, interrupted expressing to someone that the call was just a griping session for black employees. ESPN claimed to have addressed it appropriately.
  • ESPN’s president, Jimmy Pitaro, has admitted that the company is not as diverse as it wants to be.
  • Many employees spoke anonymous out of fear of retaliation from ESPN.
  • Several white producers were borderline harassing black talents on a daily basis.
  • A certain black producer with an impressive resume doesn’t move up in the company despite openings. “If she was a white person she would be a V.P.” claims Jemele Hill.
  • The network still thinks that it’s main audience is older white males despite statistics showing otherwise.
  • ESPN has pledged changes that it has yet to act upon.

I was actually offered a position at ESPN back before my trip to Mobile and the Senior Bowl. I have a friend who’s cousin works there, and she had shared much of my work with him in an attempt to get me a job without my knowledge. They liked my written work and offered me an entry-level position, but I politely declined it. I knew that I would be much too conservative to work there and that they were internally very racist. It’s been one of the worst-kept secrets in the sports industry.

ESPN’s 2017 Social Media Policy Change

ESPN also has a very strict social media policy with its employees. In 2017, they introduced an updated policy from the 2011 version, in wake of the comments from SportsCenter Anchor Jemele Hill calling for a boycott of NFL sponsors.

In the policy, they discuss that news must be vetted before it can be broken:

Do not break news on social platforms. We want to serve fans in the social sphere, but the first priority is to ESPN news and information efforts. Public news (i.e. announced in news conferences) can be distributed without vetting. However, sourced or proprietary news must be vetted by the Universal News Desk. Once reported on an ESPN platform, that news can (and should) be distributed on social platforms.

The previous policy fit on one page and was more of a guideline, but still required news to be vetted before it was broken. The 2017 version was three pages long and spoke about many other topics, mostly issues that resulted from the fallout of Hill’s comments.

China, the NBA, Nike, and ESPN

No one wants to talk about the horrific things that the CCP is doing in China. Creating concentration camps that make the very clothes and shoes that we wear not just here in America but across the world, forced sterilizations and abortions, a strict one-child policy, the brutal capture of Hong Kong, and incredibly strict observation of every citizen’s everyday routine and exercise, removing the basic rights of citizens. People can’t do anything without being watched, observed, and recorded.

Nike is using the Chinese government to supply the NBA with uniforms, shoes, and equipment, and NBA games put money directly in the pocket of ESPN with the performance on the court. ESPN relies on leagues, and won’t dare speak out against the NBA.

The NBA won’t dare speak out against their uniform supplier and force themselves to spend more money on a contract with a supplier that doesn’t have forced labor making the equipment.

Nike is pretty much run by the Chinese government. They won’t dare speak out against forced labor creating their products, saving them millions upon millions of dollars in labor.

If you really want change, here’s a real way we could make a difference across the world.