As long as people have enjoyed sports, athletes have been outspoken on political and social issues. Jesse Owens won gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic games as Adolf Hitler watched in disgust. Jackie Robinson broke the Major League Baseball color barrier in 1947. Muhammad Ali refused to fight in the Vietnam War.
In recent years, Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem and LeBron James and other NBA players wore “I can’t breathe” t-shirts as a protest to the death of Eric Garner.
Currently, a major issue that has reached the sporting world is the protests in Hong Kong against the Chinese government. The citizens of Hong Kong have been protesting an extradition bill that would allow them to be sent to China to be tried under the Chinese judiciary system.
“If a citizen of Hong Kong was arrested, they could be sent back to China -- and we call that extradition. We do that all the time in the United States: if you’re an Ohio citizen and you rob a bank in Florida and you come back here, we’re supposed to extradite you back to Florida,” AP Government teacher John Carmichael said.
This bill proposal has caused the citizens of Hong Kong to organize and protest in the city streets.
Carmichael said, “That obviously caused great concern to Hong Kong’s citizens because they don’t trust the legal system in China. Due process rights do not exist. You can be taken to a cell and have a bullet put in your head.”
The NBA found itself caught in the middle of the conflict on Oct. 4 when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The tweet was deleted soon after being posted, but it started a frenzy of controversy throughout the NBA.
While the NBA did release a statement apologizing for Morey’s tweet that “his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA,” Adam Silver, commissioner of the National Basketball Association, stated that the NBA is, in fact, showing support for Morey. According to a report by ESPN, Silver said, “There’s no chance we’ll even discipline (Morey).”
President Donald Trump commented on the NBA’s handling of the situation, even calling out some NBA coaches by name.
According to a CNN article written by Ben Church, President Trump called Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors Head Coach, a “little boy” and that Greg Popovich, San Antonio Spurs Head Coach was “so scared, he was shaking” because they did not comment on the NBA’s feud with China.
An athlete who is typically outspoken about political issues, Los Angeles Laker LeBron James, was unusually quiet to chime in about Morey’s tweet and the effects it created. According to ESPN, James addressed a room of NBA players saying that the situation seemed to be too complicated for players to make a comment on.
Upon hearing this, basketball fans became frustrated at James for not taking a stance on this issue.
Senior Blake Messenger, a huge sports fan who keeps up with current events, was disappointed with LeBron James’ choice of not speaking out for or against China.
Messenger said, “LeBron said it wasn’t for the players to talk about, but he’s always talking about politics and things happening. It seems hypocritical.”
Since the issue began in early October, the feud between China and the NBA is still ongoing.
On the opening night of the NBA regular season, a young fan in attendance of the Lakers-Clippers game was shown on the “Dance Cam” waving a Los Angeles Clippers jersey. Once he noticed he was on the big screen, he let go of the jersey and revealed a t-shirt saying “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.” The camera was quickly turned away from the young fan until he was out of the camera shot.
This situation has not died down and may be a political discussion point for the rest of the NBA season.