There is a reason why basketball is one of the highest grossing sports in the nation. The sheer athleticism and talent of many professional basketball players continues to inspire new generations and increase the ceiling for competition in the professional basketball realm. While the media likes to sensationalize the individual player and the talent, determination, or competitiveness that the individual displays on the court, it often underplays the role of the supporting players. The extent of Michael Jordan’s success on the Bulls is definitely nothing to scoff at, but without Scottie Pippen filling in the blanks and Denis Rodman’s monstrous rebounding and defense, the Michael Jordan that we sensationalize today might be less iconic.

To many in the black community, figures like Michael Jordan and LeBron James are heroes to aspire to. It is inspiring to read about their histories and see how they were able to break the molds set in place for them to achieve glory. It was no surprise when the league decided to incorporate the Black Lives Matter movement so heavily this season it seemed to be a natural option to promote social progressiveness and much needed reform. Although there was heavy influence from social media to show appreciation to many of the black figures in the NBA, it is still a good cause from the association to make a stand against social injustice. It is interesting to see the direct comparison between now and just 4 years ago when Colin Kaepernick knelt to raise awareness for police brutality and how it was deeply controversial it was at the time. Although all this political activism in the NBA is raising the much needed awareness that it deserves, there are still a major elephant in the room.

The inclusion of custom jerseys in the NBA seeks to provide a message that each player chooses to bring forth about social inequality and oppression. This system is meant to provide the players with an outlet to voice their opinions. So why is it being censored? There is a simple answer to this and that is the Chinese market and their feverish investment in American basketball and the NBA. At the beginning of the 2020 season there was an option for fans to customize their jerseys with messages that they chose to represent. This was meant as a further outlet for fans to carry on the message of social equality. At first there seemed to be a ban of the phrase “FreeHongKong” from the website’s customization feature. This was met by major backlash from social media in general. For those who don\’t understand the significance of Hong Kong and China, simply put, there is mass oppression of the democratic process of Hong Kong from the mainland Chinese government in terms of censorship and control. The Chinese government wants total authoritarian control over Hong Kong and wishes to abolish the free systems in place. This seems like a direct violation of the NBA’s messages of spreading equality and underlining oppressions in our system. It seems almost as if the NBA wishes not to spread messages of social justice, but to instead appease the current social media trend of BLM.

There is a reason why basketball is one of the highest grossing sports in the nation. The sheer athleticism and talent of many professional basketball players continues to inspire new generations and increase the ceiling for competition in the professional basketball realm. While the media likes to sensationalize the individual player and the talent, determination, or competitiveness that the individual displays on the court, it often underplays the role of the supporting players. The extent of Michael Jordan’s success on the Bulls is definitely nothing to scoff at, but without Scottie Pippen filling in the blanks and Denis Rodman’s monstrous rebounding and defense, the Michael Jordan that we sensationalize today might be less iconic.

To many in the black community, figures like Michael Jordan and LeBron James are heroes to aspire to. It is inspiring to read about their histories and see how they were able to break the molds set in place for them to achieve glory. It was no surprise when the league decided to incorporate the Black Lives Matter movement so heavily this season it seemed to be a natural option to promote social progressiveness and much needed reform. Although there was heavy influence from social media to show appreciation to many of the black figures in the NBA, it is still a good cause from the association to make a stand against social injustice. It is interesting to see the direct comparison between now and just 4 years ago when Colin Kaepernick knelt to raise awareness for police brutality and how it was deeply controversial it was at the time. Although all this political activism in the NBA is raising the much needed awareness that it deserves, there are still a major elephant in the room.

The inclusion of custom jerseys in the NBA seeks to provide a message that each player chooses to bring forth about social inequality and oppression. This system is meant to provide the players with an outlet to voice their opinions. So why is it being censored? There is a simple answer to this and that is the Chinese market and their feverish investment in American basketball and the NBA. At the beginning of the 2020 season there was an option for fans to customize their jerseys with messages that they chose to represent. This was meant as a further outlet for fans to carry on the message of social equality. At first there seemed to be a ban of the phrase “FreeHongKong” from the website’s customization feature. This was met by major backlash from social media in general. For those who don\’t understand the significance of Hong Kong and China, simply put, there is mass oppression of the democratic process of Hong Kong from the mainland Chinese government in terms of censorship and control. The Chinese government wants total authoritarian control over Hong Kong and wishes to abolish the free systems in place. This seems like a direct violation of the NBA’s messages of spreading equality and underlining oppressions in our system. It seems almost as if the NBA wishes not to spread messages of social justice, but to instead appease the current social media trend of BLM.

NBA Commissioner Silver stated prior to Game 4 of this year’s NBA Finals, “We’re completely committed to standing for social justice and racial equality. It’s part of the DNA of this league.” We have to ask ourselves given the information presented, what is the priority of corporations like the NBA? Is it really to promote social justice or is it to look good in the eyes of social media and the trends that it brings?

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Sam Gabel

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