© Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
SOMEWHERE INSIDE THIS SHINY NEW BUILDING CALLED THE CHASE CENTER — Went to the Warriors preseason game on Thursday night, and a geopolitical seminar broke out.
What was that Chinese proverb? May you live in interesting times?
Wait. I’d better clear that it was, indeed, a *Chinese* proverb with Adam Silver, Daryl Morey and millions of dollars of NBA interest first before writing that.
The Warriors have problems at the center position. They have to find a small forward. The season starts in two weeks.
But all anyone wanted to talk to Steve Kerr about was China, President Trump and free speech.
“Anyone want to talk pick-and-roll defense?” said Kerr, who in his cool Vans slip-ons and casual sweatshirt did look more like Trump’s derisive “little boy” statement than an NBA coach.
No, of course not, Steve. No one wanted to talk pick-and-roll defense when it was too easy to take a side, point a finger, grab a sound bite.
Kerr was in no mood to play that game.
“The world is complex, and it’s more gray than black and white,” he said, satisfying no one except those who understand that the world is, indeed, complex and more gray than black and white.
Half the room wants Kerr to shout down the Chinese record on human rights. The other half of the room wants Kerr to be heard that he has no interest in taking on China’s record on human rights, that he wants to stick to issue he is knowledgeable about and passionate about.
Kerr’s lack of Chinese condemnation is the latest chew toy, or “shiny object”, as he labeled the President’s daily lash-outs.
But the real story is the NBA’s business interests in China, which were cruising along for 30-plus years to the tune of hundreds of millions in revenue until Houston Rockets GM Morey tweeted out that he stood with Hong Kong’s march for democracy.
If the NBA was happy to do business in China for decades, why should we expect the NBA’s leading voices to suddenly condemn their government?
If you wanted the NBA’s leading voices to condemn China, you probably should have agitated for that for years now — not when it’s trending on Twitter.
Truth is, Kerr is more right than wrong here to take a measured stance. When the money gets touched, things get very sensitive. The NBA isn’t looking for martyrs here. They’re looking to run a business.
And when I asked Kerr if in all the NBA’s dealings with China, if the country’s record on human rights ever came up, he said no — and added that the USA’s record on human rights hasn’t come up either.
This is just another convenient time for those who dislike Kerr’s anti-Trump statements to take a shot at him for his failure to take a stand on Hong Kong; and another convenient time for those who support Kerr to defend his right to stay out of a fight he didn’t pick.
Or, as Kerr joked: “So those who tell me to stick to sports now want me to poke my nose into everything.”
The NBA is in China, and it ain’t going nowhere, sports fans, whether you want to take shots at Kerr or defend him. Forget Chinese proverbs. Remember the American proverb:
Money talks. Bull— walks.