New Analysis Shows the NBA Is More in China's Pocket Than We Thought

Mike Ehrmann/Pool Photo via AP

The NBA is known for two things. Stephen Curry and being a tool for China. It’s a relationship that has caused the sport to make some very odd decisions, including becoming incredibly politicized. Being critical of China, or supportive of countries like Hong Kong or Taiwan have actually been punished by the NBA in the past.

(READ: Human Rights? Money? The NBA Had a Choice to Make, They Went for the Money)

According to ESPN, it’s a bit more than just the NBA trying to break into the Chinese market. As it turns out, NBA owners have a much cozier relationship with China than one might expect.

The league had its games banned from Chinese state-run television for three years, but one day it all returned to air without much pomp or circumstance. Team owners hadn’t spoken up in protest during the ban at all, even while the league attempted to repair whatever relationship troubles they were having with the communist nation. As ESPN reported, the reason for the team owner’s silence was discovered:

The owners had reason to stay quiet: In addition to the money their teams derive from the NBA’s $5 billion business in China, many have significant personal stakes there through their other businesses.

ESPN examined the investments of 40 principal owners and found that they collectively have more than $10 billion tied up in China — including one owner whose company has a joint venture with an entity that has been sanctioned by the U.S. government.

The owners’ myriad ties to the world’s second-largest economy leave their businesses vulnerable if they get on the wrong side of the Chinese government or the public there, according to the analysis.

In other words, the team owners weren’t going to challenge the decisions of the authoritarian Chinese government for fear that doing so would cost them significantly in their other businesses. Between this and the fact that NBA China contributes to the bottom line significantly with each team reportedly making around $150 million apiece, these team owners are now effectively stooges of the Chinese government.

This begins to look sinister when you consider that these team owners, along with the NBA as a whole, began preaching to the American public about social justice and carried water for the Black Lives Matter movement in a big way. They wanted to look like they truly cared about the oppressed and were standing up for the little guy while they stayed wholly silent about the human rights atrocities being committed in China, including the Uyghurs in Chinese concentration camps.

While perhaps not at all shocking, this does put the NBA’s ties to China in a much clearer light. It would appear that many team owners have chosen Chinese money over American values.

One thing is for sure, and that’s that no amount of moral grandstanding from NBA team owners should be trusted ever again.