Daryl Morey has left the NBA, its fans, and the media that covers the sport in a very uncomfortable position. Now the Brooklyn Nets, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors, Houston Rockets, and a bunch of American media members are stuck going through whatever motions China will allow them to go through before they can return home. Can the trip be salvaged? Probably not.
At this point, the NBA has nothing to gain by staying. The games have already been blacked out in China. They are considering outright canceling them, which is what they should do because who knows what could happen if they play and the games mean nothing anyway. On Tuesday they were already painting over a Houston Rockets mural and arresting a Rockets fan. How about we bring everyone home before we start the season short four teams and a studio crew to cover them?
From a business perspective, it's dumb for anyone to say anything. From a human perspective, it's dumb for anyone to not say anything. The NBA was willing to overlook China's, let's call it a complex political climate, because there are billions of dollars to be made. One tweet and they can't play dumb anymore. That doesn't mean they shouldn't until all four NBA teams and every American media member is home. In fact, Adam Silver should cut bait right now. The Chinese government does not mess around.
In January the Department of State released a travel advisory warning American travelers about Chinese "exit bans" which are used "to aid Chinese authorities in resolving civil disputes in favor of Chinese parties." There's a lot of fate-tempting going on right now.
People like Clay Travis want Rachel Nichols to go on American television, while in a country that has state-run media, and criticize the Chinese government. Against the wishes of her employer. The best-case scenario for any ESPN talent who says something is a suspension. The worst case means you might be the subject of a popular true crime podcast someday.
It's not like the NBA can't eventually mend this fence and go back and make money in the future. It really sucks that the billionaires are going to lose out on millions, and millionaires will miss out on many thousands, but everyone will survive. David Stern was wrestling with these issues more than a decade ago. The league has been doing fine. I know, they could be even richer, but sometimes life isn't fair.
The most annoying part of all this - on both sides of the political playing field - is that the NBA has been exposed as faux woke. They've been proven to only be socially conscious when it is most convenient and they don't have any skin in the game. We haven't heard from LeBron James or Gregg Popovich. Steve Kerr was asked about the situation and punted. Will he really come back with a well-informed take and voice his support of the Hong Kong protesters? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he will wait until his co-workers return from their business trip. Or maybe his bosses told him to keep his mouth shut this time. That would suck, but it's a reality.
No matter what happens, this wasn't good for anyone. Everyone online is kind of angry about the same thing, but with different motivations. Players, coaches, and media members have been put in awkward positions. And some rich people lost an opportunity to get richer sometime in the near future. Oh, and then there are all the protesters in Hong Kong. They're also dealing with some stuff right now. They aren't rich people missing out on an opportunity to get a little richer, but they probably consider the stakes almost as high for themselves.
So this is going to be tough in 2019. We're going to just have to wait to hear what some famous people really think. And when we do hear from them, we'll probably get a censored version of their thoughts, which means the Chinese won this. The Chinese government really did show the NBA who is the boss. And the only way for the league to completely save face is to completely walk away, allow their employees to say what they feel and be happy with all the money they're making in the rest of the world.