Nets Drop The Ball by Declining to Speak on Issues During Recent Trip to China

Justin Rimpi

As was the case with NBA coaches, players, and executives the Brooklyn Nets seemingly genuflected at the alter of an oppressive Chinese regime.

The Nets recently returned back to the United States following an ill-fated trip to China where they played two preseason games against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

The trip became a political disaster about Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey said the Hong Kong protesters should be supported. Nets owner, Joseph Tsai, decided that he had to comment on Mowry's tweet and said that he did not believe the protesters should be supported.

What followed for the league was a public relations nightmare, and the league could not get out of its own way, and find an appropriate remedy to the argument they were taking "dirty money" from a repressive Communist regime.

The Nets found themselves firmly entrenched in this controversy because of the comment by their owner, and the fact they still had to play two basketball games while this political firestorm was taking place.

This set of circumstances placed the Nets in an unique position to speak out against a Chinese government that is actively fighting against the Hong Kong people gaining the freedom they covet, and the freedom that Americans take for granted.

Head Coach Kenny Atkinson decided not to take a stance on the issue, which was a common thread all across the league throughout this saga. Atkinson said that he has never commented on a political or social issue during his time with the team, and he wanted to keep it that way. Atkinson said that he wants to put this issue in the rear view mirror and prepare for the Nets opening game on October 23 at home against the Minnesota Timberwolves.

There was a report earlier in the week that star point guard Kyrie Irving was not keen on playing in the games in China if they were going to be overshadowed by the backlash that accompanied Mowry's tweet. 

Following practice on Wednesday, Irving declined to comment on his thoughts about what was an eventful week in China to say the least.

"It was more, not trying to make a political statement or anything like that," Joe Harris said. "It was more just like, we're here to play basketball. Just try to prep and get ready for the regular season."

Caris LeVert also supported what both his coach and Harris said, and did not want to come down on any particular side of an issue that was deemed to be so divisive.

"We just tried to block it out but it's tough to block everything out," LeVert said. "At the end of the day we're human and we see those things. We just try to stick together as much as we could and focus our sights on the game."

Tsai did discuss with the Nets while they were in China why he decided to put out a statement which essentially said that Mowry was incorrect, and the Hong Kong protesters did not deserve the support of the rest of the world. 

"A lot of individual conversations, talked a little bit about it as a team," Atkinson said. "It's part of my role as a coach to talk about these things and get feedback from the players. Obviously, I'm not going to share those. But definitely we talked about it."

The NBA had a terrible week, and showed their true colors all throughout the league's time in China. The players and coaches are only willing to speak out against policies when they believe it will not have any impact on their bottom line in the future. 

Many NBA players do not want to damage their potential future earnings in China. At the end of the day, the Nets and its coaches, balked at the opportunity to speak out against their owner and support a group of demonstrators that are in search of a fraction of the freedom that Americans have on a daily basis.

It turns out that when enough money is at stake the NBA, and its players, will shut up and dribble.