Charlie Kirk: The 'Woke' NBA Became 'Joke.' But Pampered Players Aren't the Only Fools Here | Opinion

James Harden
Journalist quickly shut down after asking Houston Rockets stars James Harden and Russell Westbrook questions about China and the NBA Christian Petersen/Getty

There is a famous line, variations of which have been used since the 20th century, that has been attributed (without evidence) to Vladimir Lenin. The first version of the mysterious quote goes like this: "When it comes time to hang the capitalists, they will vie with each other for the rope contract." While various permutations exist, the quote's central meaning remains unchanged—and empirically true. For decades, the capitalist West has displayed a suicidal willingness to crawl into economic bed with those intent on effectuating its demise.

Allow me to manufacture my own variation of the famous quote and attribute it to a modern leader I believe likely to say it, namely Chinese President Xi Jinping:

"China will manufacture a rope using stolen technology that it will then sell to the United States for the purpose of hanging itself."

Xi's statement would conceivably be made in response to a journalist's question about the NBA's recent reaction to a tweet by Houston Rocket's General Manager, Daryl Morey, voicing his support for the Hong Kong protesters.

For those still unaware, Morey shared a seemingly innocuous image on his Twitter account that contained the words, "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong." The reference was to the ongoing protests in the captive, "semi-autonomous" island-state, protests which started over a proposed extradition agreement whereby, if codified into law, Hong Kong would be forced to ship over to Mainland China anyone the fascist nation said they wanted imprisoned, tortured or executed. Yes, fascist—China is not a communist country by definition since they allow the ownership of private property. The "Communist" label is just for marketing.

Since the initial protests, these very public demonstrations, which have captured the hearts and minds of the international community, have expanded into a general cry for liberty. Recently, the protests saw the first protester to be shot and sadly, more are sure to follow. In fact, Morey's gesture echoed the sentiments of freedom-loving citizens the world over.

Perhaps the only place that isn't true outside of Mainland China is the National Basketball Association. In fact, I can't link to Morey's original tweet because the NBA made him take it down. Not only did he have to take it down, he apologized:

"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.

I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided, and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA."

The league and players forced Morey to cower because China is a huge multi-billion-dollar market for the NBA. That means they make lots of money there and if you're the NBA, money apparently comes before freedom. This was made clear by the NBA's pusillanimous commissioner, Adam Silver, allowing the league to post this response to Morey:

"We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rocket's General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that the Tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together."

NBA players also were quick to speak out in favor of China's repressive regime which: locks Muslims in concentration camps, allocates rights to citizens based on "scoring" their devotion to the state, and harvests organs from healthy donors to use in people who fly in Chinese "preferred class." In one hypocritical fell swoop, the "woke" NBA became a "joke." Even star James Harden apologized at a press conference saying, "We apologize...we love China, we love playing there...and we love everything they're about..."

The Chinese response to this is predictable. Television stations are refusing to carry NBA games while Chinese celebrities that walk in lock-step with China's global conquest aims are threatening NBA boycotts. Since the Chinese already own and operate concentration camps, don't be surprised if people start getting arrested for watching banned Houston Rockets broadcasts.

Writing this column is difficult because it could very well be directed at any number of different targets deserving of scathing critique. The emphasis could be on the cancel culture mentality that tried to destroy Daryl Morey. It could be on the plight of the Hong Kong freedom protesters who seem to have a better grasp on America's founding values than do many American NBA players and league officials. It could be about the hypocrisy of those privileged and pampered children that play in the NBA. It could be about how complicated political correctness becomes when woke sensitivities collide with the almighty dollar.

In the end, however, it's really about the great threat that is China and the continued ignorance in the West in failing to recognize and deal with that threat. Our athletes shouldn't prioritize entertaining the Chinese over anyone's freedom, in Hong Kong or elsewhere. Our tech companies shouldn't be equipping the Chinese at the expense of our national security. Our politicians should not be appeasing the Chinese at the expense of our long-term financial health and growth. Trade deals or no, the United States as a nation has to finally accept that China as a nation is a geopolitical and economic enemy that would have our necks if we let them. We need to act accordingly.

Meanwhile, in the time it took you to read this column, the Chinese have produced another hundred-thousand miles of rope.

Charlie Kirk is the founder and executive director of Turning Point USA, the nation's largest and fastest growing conservative youth organization with a presence on over 1,400 college and high school campuses; he is also host of "The Charlie Kirk Show."

The opinions expressed in this essay are the author's own.

Charlie Kirk: The 'Woke' NBA Became 'Joke.' But Pampered Players Aren't the Only Fools Here | Opinion | The debate