The NBA was in turmoil after a controversial tweet on October 4th from Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey in support of the pro democracy protests in Hong Kong. China has historically had deep financial ties to the NBA: it is estimated that the NBA makes 500 million dollars a year from China. After Chinese outrage, all of the NBA’s official Chinese partners severed ties with the league. These companies include travel websites, fast food chains, dairy companies, and many more.
The league commissioner Adam Silver was quick to apologize for Morey’s actions while emphasizing the league’s policy on free speech. This brings up the question: Would the NBA have had the same stance if the league didn’t have so much money in China?. This was not an isolated incident. Recently, professional athletes have begun to be more and more involved in politics. Athletes can be very influential with their large social media accounts and many fans. They have valued opinions and when they make political statements, such as kneeling during the National Anthem or supporting protests. This has become a loaded issue with many people arguing for both sides. Washington High School athlete and senior track runner, Nick Lopez, says in regard to an athlete’s role in politics: “Athletes should play the same role as everyone else and should not be placed in important political positions unless they are qualified.” He also does not believe that athletes should be punished or fined for politically charged tweets or statements. Adrian Ulloa, a sophomore at Washington who plays Football and Soccer says, “Athletes should be able to put whatever opinions they want on their social media accounts. It is not fair to limit their free speech. They should be able to voice their opinions, the same as anyone else.” However, Jack ten Bosch, a husky baseball player, disagrees “I personally do not believe that athletes should use their social media accounts to post political ideas,” he says. “There is a time and place to discuss such matters.” It can also be important that athletes speak up for different political ideas because they have such a strong supporter base which can lead to ideas being spread. Aditya Iyengar, who is a sophomore badminton player, says, “Athletes should be able to endorse candidates and should take a side on political issues.” Jackson Tabish, a Washington High School Tennis player says, “They should not be punished for their actions simply ignored because it’s common sense that most athletes don’t know enough about politics to be listened to by the general public.” Although it may be hard for the public to turn their attention away from their favorite athletes this may be an important way to discourage the behavior.
Overall the way that the NBA has fared in the China issue is a prime example of the role athletes should or shouldn’t play. Our school has many great athletes that may go on to become professional or even college athletes. They must eventually make the tough decision to take political stances and risk their earnings or stay silent and focus on the game.