As some of the world’s best golfers are punished for their exodus to LIV Golf, Bob Ley calls for equal treatment of the NBA’s relationship with China.
Brooks Koepka, Bryson DeChambeau, Phil Mickelson and many other big names have been accused of serving as a tool for sports laundering by jumping into LIV Golf, and rightfully so considering the league is financed with Saudi money. Saudi Arabia has notoriously bad human rights problems, generating billions of dollars from oil and slave labor. But China has its own notoriously bad human rights problems, and the NBA has, for decades, profited from its business dealings with a country that similarly uses slave labor, along with a litany of other human rights concerns.
“It’s very easy to get angry and angry at LIV Golf and the Saudis, all I ask is philosophical and ideological consistency,” said former ESPN host Bob Ley on What Did I Miss? by Michelle Beadle. podcast. “Apply it to China consistently, LeBron.”
Ley noted Adam Silver’s poor response three years ago, when NBA executive Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong’s anti-China protests. But Ley added that the NBA commissioner has since acknowledged some of the human rights problems in China, costing the league millions of dollars in doing so.
“There have been other reports,” Ley said. “I mean, the Fainaru brothers from ESPN.com have shown some of the stuff with camps and the knowledge of what’s involved in the NBA. China has as many problems as any other country, and the outrage is tempered by the popularity of the sport and the dollars at stake?
Ley specifically singled out LeBron James, who has been a leading voice on issues of social and racial inequality within the United States, but continues to turn a blind eye to China’s deplorable human rights problems.
“I think LeBron has a responsibility and, more importantly, an opportunity. And it’s easy for people to jump to the conclusion that players, at a time when social voice and fairness are a very important part of sports, more than ever, this is an opportunity to take a stand. If you’re a billionaire, you can afford to take a stand and at least educate yourself,” Ley told Beadle.
“Freedom of expression in China is a very different thing, freedom of internet access is a very different thing… are we comfortable dealing with a nation like that and putting it all on the table?” Law continued. “Those are questions that people have to answer. If you want to be furious at LIV Golf, and you have every right to… pause, take a deep breath and look at China and see, should this outrage or this introspection and attention extend to the NBA?
The difference between NBA players and athletes who join LIV Golf is that these golfers choose to go to a league backed by a country with human rights issues. At LIV Golf, it is the individual players who serve as the tool for sportwashing. Therefore, the media will continue to ask these golfers about their decision. Basketball players, however, have no other high-level option, so the media is less inclined to ask them about the NBA’s dealings with China. The NBA is, regardless of whether or not you agree with the league’s business relationships.
What I appreciate about Ley’s call to action is that he didn’t criticize James or other NBA players for their social initiatives in the United States. NBA players understandably prioritize issues within their community, and they cannot be expected to address every human rights issue around the world. It would be great if James drew attention to the problems in China, but the fact that he doesn’t shouldn’t detract from his philanthropy and social conscience in the US.
[What Did I Miss? With Michelle Beadle]