Today the NBA announced it will drop Spalding as its official basketball in favor of Wilson starting in the 2021-22 season. That sounds innocent, but it appears to be a part of a much larger, more sinister string of events.
The NBA looks to be making its latest push to appease the Chinese Communist Party.
You may remember the Daryl Morey debacle, during which the Houston Rockets general manager tweeted his support for Hong Kong protestors.
The tweet set off a firestorm. The Chinese consulate in Houston denounced Morey, the Chinese Basketball Association cut its ties with the Rockets, and Chinese Central Television - the NBA's Chinese broadcast partner - stopped airing games. The latter of which is said to have cost the NBA billions, and CCTV has yet to agree to air games.
The NBA has repeatedly called the Hong Kong protests a complicated matter, but it's not that hard to understand. Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China that maintains autonomy and democratic freedoms. China is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, an authoritarian regime. The CCP continually tries to push legislation to take away Hong Kong's autonomy and democratic freedoms, and there has been continual pushback by Hong Kongers since the early 2000's. The latest protests are about just that.
Now, what about that ball change?
Yesterday, The Global Times - a Chinese state-owned national tabloid - released an article calling for the "proper handling of Daryl Morey."
"The National Basketball Association (NBA) has appointed a Chinese national as its China branch boss, but prominent commentators and fans noted if it wants to win its way back to the Chinese mainland market, it should properly handle Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey — who tweeted in support of Hong Kong rioters last year, leading to significant disappointment and a boycott by the Chinese public, including major broadcasting partners.
NBA officials are anticipating potential losses "in the hundreds of millions of dollars across the sport" due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Guardian on Tuesday, citing an ESPN report. This is another blow for a league still reeling from the economic damage arising from its frayed relationship with China, which is estimated to be a billion-dollar business, and even more if taking advertisement and patronage into consideration.
Suffering enormous losses, the league is eager to pick up its performance in China, which has successfully reined in the COVID-19 pandemic, with a friendly gesture, observers noted."
At the risk of patronizing, The Global Times - and all media in China - is heavily controlled by the CCP. This was not some writer's opinion, this was a direct request from the Chinese Communist Party.
As the NBA reels financially due to coronavirus shutdowns, the CCP is leveraging the situation to gain more influence over the league. It's worked. Yesterday, the NBA appointed Michael Ma Xiaofei as its China chief executive. Xiaofei is the first Chinese national to be named as an executive since the NBA's Bejing office opened in 2008. Xiaofei is also the son of Ma Guoli, one of the founding members of Chinese Central Television. It should be noted that all Chinese businesses are obligated to have a CCP cell within them because, in essence, all Chinese business are working on behalf of the CCP.
Fast forward to Wednesday, and the NBA makes this surprise announcement: They're changing basketballs, from Spalding to Wilson. Cute, right? Not really. It appears this is yet another concession the NBA is being forced to make in response to Morey's tweet.
Wilson is owned by Amer Sports Corporation, a Finnish Company. Amer was sold to Anta Sports - a Chinese company - in 2018. Anta was one of many Chinese sports companies who boycotted the NBA after Daryl Morey's Hong Kong tweet. Remember, all Chinese companies are working on behalf of the CCP.
Spalding is owned by Fruit of the Loom, which is owned by Warren Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway. Spalding is an American company.
From the aforementioned Global Times article:
"It waits to be seen to what extent Ma is empowered to handle the issue, Su commented, but he is confident that since Ma chose to take the job, he will have greater sway with NBA's headquarters, otherwise, it will be next to impossible to break the ice.
If the Morey incident is properly handled, the NBA, in the long run, could demonstrate that China welcomes foreign businesses to invest and make money in the country, as long as they respect the country's sovereignty and territorial integrity, Su said."
This is the CCP's game. Gain influence - political, economic, corporate or otherwise - and push national agendas by any means necessary. It is precisely why all Chinese companies are required to have a CCP cell within them. The CCP, through economic and corporate coercion, has shut another American company up.
Adam Silver, who has branded the NBA as the progressive league, has proven his league is only as progressive as the Chinese Communist Party will allow it to be.