The NBA is Committing Performative Wokeness – and that is fine

nba news

How much does the NBA really care about social justice?

No one can deny that NBA players care a great deal about black rights. The NBA emblazoned “Black Lives Matter” onto its courts not just to appeal to its younger, more progressive audience, but as a tool to show its workers that it cares. It is little different from how every company on the planet claims that they are a family, right before dumping its employees at the least sign of economic difficulty.

But while the “NBA Cares” is an old slogan, conservative figures have been quick to blast the NBA as a business which is only using social justice rhetoric as a symbol. China is the preeminent example of how the NBA has no interest in making any sacrifices in the name of the social justice which it appears to be so committed to finding a corporate meeting venue.

While “But China” is often used as an attacking slogan in a similar manner to “All Lives Matter,” the former slogan does have a point. When Daryl Morey tweeted for social justice, only in a manner which threatened the NBA’s bottom line, the league quickly came down on him and LeBron declared he was misinformed. That Steve Kerr gave an apology in July for not backing Morey is closing the barn door after the horse left and traveled halfway across the world.

But the fundamental problem with the “But China” criticism is that not all political issues are created equal. The blunt reality is that to the black man in the United States, the issue of police violence and racism is far more important to him than the plight of the Uighurs or the Hong Kong citizenry. The opposite is also true, as it is not reasonable to expect those people to care very much about police violence in the United States as they deal with their own oppression.

An unfortunate strain in modern political thought is that we expect everyone to be well-informed on every political issue. This is impossible, and in fact this impossibility is why we have a representative democracy instead of a direct one. In fact, the people who claim to be the most well-informed on every political issue are often the most ignorant ones of all. For from being able to think for themselves, those people often end up as mere mouthpieces for their political party, twisting their opinions as suits the party.

So perhaps LeBron James is a hypocrite for not speaking out about China more, and the NBA’s commitment to social justice is actually an act. But the NBA is not the institution which is supposed to actually do something about China. That is China itself, or possibly the United States who should pressure the Communist regime to treat Hong Kong with dignity.

If the NBA only wants to speak about one issue, there is nothing wrong with it doing so, just as there is nothing with an individual for only focusing on a few political issues. And in this case, the NBA has chosen to focus on those issues which matter the most for its fanbase and its players.