The NBA does not have a great track record when it comes to China. So when the Washington Wizards hosted a “Chinese New Year”-themed game complete with comments from the Chinese ambassador to the U.S., the optics were far from encouraging.
One of the NBA’s first public relations mistakes regarding China came back in 2019, when then-Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet that read, “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”
Instead of defending citizens of Hong Kong who were protesting Chinese oppression, the NBA decided to defend the totalitarian regime.
“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,” the league said in a statement.
“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.”
Statement from NBA re: Daryl Morey’s controversial tweet: pic.twitter.com/6IJv9FJF4T
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) October 7, 2019
Then on Jan. 17, Golden State Warriors co-owner Chamath Palihapitiya said on a podcast that “nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs.”
With all of that said, one can understand why the events that occurred at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday night were in poor taste.
According to Breitbart News, the Wizards were celebrating the Lunar New Year, which the organization referred to as “Chinese New Year.”
— Washington Wizards (@WashWizJMC1) January 25, 2022
Events of the night included Chinese dancing, the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on a Chinese instrument and other events aimed at “honoring Chinese culture.”
However, the most controversial portion of the night came when the Chinese ambassador to the United States Qin Gang delivered a pre-recorded message on the video board.
According to the Chinese state-run outlet Global Times, Gang congratulated the NBA on its 75th anniversary and “noted that both the Wizards and the Clippers were special in the hearts of Chinese fans, as some famous Chinese players had once played for the two teams respectively.”
He also wished American and Chinese athletes the best of luck in the 2022 Beijing Olympics, an event that has already drawn controversy of its own.
“Clearly, something is bigger than basketball,” he said according to the Times.
While the Global Times seemed to have a positive view of the event, the Chinese state media are not typically the people the United States wants to garner support from.
There is certainly a chance the Wizards’ “Chinese New Year” night was just an innocent celebration. But given the NBA’s track record, it looks much more like a propaganda stunt.
This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.