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Larry Elder / Oct. 17, 2019

The NBA and the Elephant on the Court — Unwed Fathers

The general manager of the NBA's Houston Rockets posted a "controversial" tweet that simply read: "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."

The general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets posted a “controversial” tweet that simply read: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” Two days later, the NBA issued the following statement: “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. … 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.” The Rockets’ manager not only deleted the tweet but apologized to China: “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. … My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA.”

So much for the woke NBA and its outspoken faces, including President Donald Trump critics such as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr, San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and superstar player LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, who once called Trump a “bum.” Kerr once explained why his championship team refused to visit the White House by noting that, under President Trump, “these are not ordinary times.”

Kerr’s father, an educator at American University in Beirut, was assassinated by an Islamic terrorist. One might think the opinionated Kerr would side with Hong King dissidents over a communist country whose former leader, Mao Zedong, was responsible for an estimated 65 million Chinese killed and where an estimated 1 million to 3 million ethnic and religious minorities are confined to indoctrination camps. Earlier this year, the human rights group Amnesty International said: “The Chinese authorities have detained Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims — outside any legal process — in ‘political education’ camps for their perceived disloyalty to the government and Chinese Communist Party. In those camps, they are subjected to forced political indoctrination, renunciation of their faith, mistreatment, and, in some cases, torture. Numerous UN experts, treaty bodies, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights have expressed grave concern about the situation in Xinjiang and called for unrestricted access to the region.”

The NBA/China relationship is, of course, about money. USA Today said: “At stake in the standoff: billions of dollars for both sides and a strong four-decade-long relationship that began with a Washington Bullets exhibition game in 1979. It is a relationship that has multiple layers including Chinese-related business partnerships with NBA players in the millions, a friendship with Basketball Hall of Famer and former NBA All-Star Yao Ming, who is the president of the Chinese Basketball Association and is a vital goodwill ambassador for the NBA in Asia, and millions of fans.”

But about China and the Hong Kong dissidents, the outspoken Kerr, who has called for more gun control laws, lamely suggested he is still reading and “learning about” the issue and he intends to consult his brother-in-law, who teaches Chinese history. Popovich actually said he was “proud” of the way NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was handling the controversy. LeBron James was playing in China when the controversy started. But when James returned stateside he, too, denounced Morey as “misinformed.”

But the NBA’s silence over Hong Kong dissidents follows the league’s silence on an elephant-in-the-room issue by a league that prides itself on promoting good values through its role model players: the issue of unwed fathers. In 1998, Sports Illustrated published a cover story called “Where’s Daddy?”: “Although there have been no studies on athletes and their out-of-wedlock kids, those who are familiar with the issue say the numbers are staggering. ‘I’d say that there might be more kids out of wedlock than there are players in the NBA,’ estimates one of the league’s top agents, who says he spends more time dealing with paternity claims than he does negotiating contracts.

"Len Elmore, an ESPN broadcaster and former NBA player, worked as an agent but says he quit in part because of a ‘lack of responsibility’ among his clients. ‘For numbers, I would guess that one (out-of-wedlock child) for every player is a good ballpark figure. For every player with none, there’s a guy with two or three.’”

Former NBA star Jalen Rose said: “I don’t care if you were born in a cave or were a crack baby. There is no justification for this. As an adult and professional, there has to be a sense of reason and responsibility. This isn’t just a money-and-power thing, though. I know guys who have never left their corner of the neighborhood who have six kids by five women. I know guys still living at home with Mom who have done the same. Money gives guys access, but this isn’t a professional athlete problem. This is an African American problem.”

But on the issue of fatherlessness in the league and in society — a far greater problem than gun violence or Trump’s alleged “racism” — Messrs. Kerr, Popovich and James are silent. On this matter, has the league told them to shut up and dribble?

COPYRIGHT 2019 LAURENCE A. ELDER

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