Emmy Griffin / January 20, 2022

NBA’s China Lackeys Strike Again

Chamath Palihapitiya, an owner of the Golden State Warriors, smugly claims that no one cares about the Uyghurs.

As much as America loves sports, professional teams are making it increasingly difficult for fans to keep supporting them. The expression “Get Woke, Go Broke” may need to happen to get the attention of these franchises. The latest egregious episode that has tainted the already muddy reputation of the National Basketball Association (NBA) was perpetrated by Chamath Palihapitiya.

Mr. Palihapitiya is one of the owners of the California-based Golden State Warriors. On a podcast that he hosts with his friends, he made some outrageous comments about China, America, and the Uyghurs.

Here’s some context of the conversation. The host, Jason Calacani, was lamenting how few things there are for which to praise Biden, but he also said one example was Biden bringing attention to the Chinese genocide of the Uyghurs by declaring a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Beijing Olympics, as well as the president signing a bill banning American companies from receiving imports from the province where the Uyghurs are in concentration camps. Calacani lamented how this one good deed got lost in all the bad. (This is utter nonsense, of course. A diplomatic boycott is nothing, barely making a statement. The sanction was stronger but still not as effective as it could be.)

Palihapitiya immediately interrupts with this shocker: “Let’s be honest, nobody cares about the Uyghurs. You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you care — the rest of us don’t care. … I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.”

What an elitist thing to say. Palihapitiya has a line of things he considers important. Fair enough — everyone does — but to say that about a country committing actual genocide is obtuse in the extreme. The suffering of these people doesn’t effect him, therefore it does’t matter.

The Uyghur genocide is a situation about which Palihapitiya can actually do something if he decided to take a stand. As National Review’s Jim Geraghty put it: “If Palihapitiya publicly said, ‘Yes, I care about the Uyghurs and what China is doing to them is deplorable,’ could those statements damage his businesses and his investments? Absolutely. The Chinese government could well start hindering any business associated with Palihapitiya. But … just how much damage would taking that stand do? Next year, instead of having $1.2 billion, would his net worth be ‘only’ a billion? ‘Only’ $800 million?”

And yet, Palihapitiya’s concerns are with healthcare, systemic racism in the prison systems, and climate change. In other words, things that do potentially affect him. Political pundit Ben Shapiro put it this way: Palihapitiya has so much money that moral strictures don’t apply to him; he can create his own morality. Shapiro is absolutely right. In this case, Palihapitiya’s moral compass is concerned only with things that directly affect him and his bottom line.

Later in the discussion, Palihapitiya talks about how he wants to take care of issues here in the U.S. before he interferes with other countries. In fact, it seemed to annoy him that people had the audacity to care about Chinese genocide when there were bad things going on in the States.

To paraphrase Jim Geraghty again, the issues are not binary. It’s not a case of ignoring problems in the U.S. and protesting the human rights violations in China or vice versa. People can do both.

Palihapitiya was rightfully blasted six ways from Sunday for his callous rant. He issued an “apology” statement, saying: “In re-listening to this week’s podcast, I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy. I acknowledge that entirely. As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human rights issues, so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop.”

Palihapitiya himself was an immigrant who fled human rights violations — and yet would criticize those who would stand up and speak out against it? As one investigative reporter put it, “Talk about pulling up the ladder behind you!”

Needless to say, the Golden State Warriors were quick to issue a statement distancing themselves from Palihapitiya, saying he was only a limited investor who didn’t have anything to do with the day-to-day business of the team. The Warriors are some of the most prolific virtue signalers in the league. Of course they were going to distance themselves from these comments.

Not all of the NBA was silent, though. The newly minted Enes Kanter Freedom, a center for the Boston Celtics and proud American, called out Palihapitiya. Freedom has been on a crusade to speak out about the human rights abuses in China, and specifically the NBA acting like lackeys for the Chinese government. Earlier this week, he wrote: “When [the NBA] says we stand for justice, don’t forget there are those who sell their soul for money & business like [Chamath Palihapitiya]… When genocides happen, it is people like this that let it happen. Shame!”

Palihapitiya is merely voicing what some in the NBA want the American people to believe. But if they cover for China and hate on the U.S., why should fans pay to see their games?

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