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Steve Kerr is not one to stick to sports.
Except on Monday.
Kerr was asked about the controversy engulfing the NBA after the league condemned Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey for a now-deleted tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors in their conflict with the Chinese government that read “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.”
He didn’t have much to say.
‘Actually I don’t’
“Actually I don’t,” Kerr said when asked if he has thoughts on the controversy. “It’s a really bizarre international story. A lot of us don’t know what to make of it. It’s something I’m reading about like everybody is, but I’m not gonna comment further.”
That’s far from the standard Kerr response on social issues. He’s right on one point. The conflict between the people of Hong Kong and the Chinese government is complex, and speaking publicly on the topic from a place of ignorance is ill advised.
But what’s not complicated is analyzing the NBA’s response to Morey’s comments, which places a clear priority on the league’s financial interests over human rights concerns on the other side of the world.
NBA apologized for Morey’s ‘regrettable’ tweet
The NBA released a statement on Morey’s tweet, condemning it as “regrettable:”
We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets 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 his 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.
High financial stakes
The league and the Rockets in particular have significant financial ties to China, a hub of NBA popularity. The Chinese Basketball Association has vowed to cut ties with the Rockets, while China’s top state broadcaster CCTV 5 announced it would no longer air Rockets games as part of a larger financial backlash from China in protest of Morey’s tweet.
League under fire from U.S. lawmakers
The NBA’s response has drawn swift condemnation from both side of the U.S. political aisle criticizing the league for prioritizing its financial interests over human rights and Morey’s ability to speak freely on the issue.
In the same media session, Kerr doubled down on pleading ignorant.
“Actually, what I’ve found is that it’s easy to speak on issues that I’m passionate about and feel like I’m well-versed on,” Kerr said. “I’ve found that it makes the most sense to stick to topics that fall in that category. I try to keep my comments to those things.”
Kerr said that there wasn’t a league mandate for coaches and players to stay silent on the issue. But even if there isn’t, the message from the NBA rings loud and clear.
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