The NBA’s track record of fighting for social justice in the United States while happily ignoring human rights abuses around the world to make a quick buck is unmatched. Now, the league is bringing its human rights blinders to the United Arab Emirates.
The NBA will be bringing two preseason games to Abu Dhabi despite homosexuality being illegal in the UAE. Being gay or transgender in the UAE can be punished by fines, chemical castration, and even death. But there is money to be made, so the NBA will happily ignore those inconvenient laws.
The UAE is perfectly acceptable, but North Carolina is not. In 2016, the NBA stripped Charlotte of its All-Star Game festivities after North Carolina passed a law requiring people to use the bathroom of their biological sex. That was a bridge too far for the NBA, with Commissioner Adam Silver saying that punishing North Carolina was “important as a part of our core values.” One has to wonder if Silver will ask Emirati officials if there are transgender bathroom accommodations in Abu Dhabi.
This is how the NBA operates. The league boasts about its social justice credentials to its domestic audience, selling shirts for Pride Month and putting Black Lives Matter slogans on jerseys and courts. Then, it turns around and schedules games in the UAE. Players and league officials will talk about how important the right to vote is while the league holds basketball camps in communist Cuba or plays preseason games in China, two authoritarian countries that don’t hold free and fair elections or have any respect for human rights.
In some cases, the NBA even takes part in these abuses. That was the case with the league’s basketball camps in China, where Chinese coaches were physically abusing young players. The league was even willing to allow American coaches to be harassed in order to maintain its connection to China. When the story came to light, the league hounded current and former employees not to speak about it when media outlets started asking questions.
Silver has been praised by establishment media for the social justice direction in which he has led the league, but it has always been an act. The NBA wins favorable media coverage at home while it panders to human rights abusers abroad for access to their markets. NBA officials, owners, and players are all hypocritical millionaires whenever they talk about human rights, equality, and tolerance, and this is yet another reminder that they don’t care how brazen their hypocrisy is.