Wednesday, September 23, 2020 -
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Bread and circuses

I was deeply disturbed when back in October the NBA came out in favor of the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party. To refresh your memory, as so much has happened since then:

The general manager of the Houston Rockets tweeted his support for protesters in Hong Kong. The NBA, whose interests lie in a growing Chinese market, decided not to back the owner’s freedom of speech, but to criticize the GM, pressure him to apologize and even escorted out of games fans who carried messages of support for Hong Kong.

I decided that I would stay away from basketball for a while.

Here we are, 10 months later, and the NBA has announced a boycott of its own. Following the police shooting of Wisconsinite Jacob Blake, the Milwaukee Bucks led a two-day shutdown of the NBA in protest of the treatment of black Americans by law enforcement.

Now, I’m not going to go down the “whataboutism” road. It makes a lot of sense that black American athletes, and a league dominated by black athletes, care a lot more about what’s happening to black Americans than it does about what’s happening to people in Hong Kong. There is nothing hypocritical about that.

Here’s my issue: When the NBA and its players had an opportunity to stand up for justice for people from Hong Kong, they either remained silent or chose to reinforce the perpetrators, not empower the victims.

So, no thank you, I will not be taking any moral guidance from a morally vacuous organization, as much as I may believe that systemic racism in this country is a major problem.

My issues with the NBA’s move don’t end for me there. I have a hard time understanding how taking two nights off from one’s (unrelated) job generates change. Yes, it gets people talking, but for how long?

At the tail end of June, Rockies First Baseman Ian Desmond opted out of the season due to coronavirus, but also in protest of racism in baseball. Less than two months later, does anyone even remember it, let alone discuss it?

I listen to a lot of sports radio and I haven’t heard it mentioned once since the week he made his announcement.

A day after its dramatic postponement, after everyone had spent 24 hours on social media entrenching their positions on whether it was right to cancel games or not, the NBA announced the playoffs were back on.

Maybe this time it will be different, and real change will follow. I fear, though, it may just be, as the Roman poet Juvenal said, bread and circuses.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at

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Shana Goldberg

IJN Assistant Publisher |

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