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NBA crisis in China is all about whether America and China can respect each other (2)

By Ren Yi (People's Daily Online)    20:21, October 10, 2019

5. Learn to understand and respect the traditions and taboos of different countries

Do in Rome as the Romans do. To get along with different countries, one needs to understand the taboos and things that are regarded as “politically correct” and “politically incorrect” in other countries. 

For example, Americans and the British know very well that they should be awfully sensitive to the connection between the historical issue (the Holocaust) and the present situation (the ultra-hawkish policies of the Israel) of the Jews when deal with Israel. Every American and British politician and enterprise know very clear that they must be mindful of the feelings of the Israelis and make sure not to break a taboo. 

No American company or politician would take side on the Catalonian issue when dealing with Spain, for they know it would irritate many Spanish. Every American and British politician and enterprise know this very clear because it’s a taboo subject for the Spanish.

American companies and politicians would avoid topics on World War Ⅱwhen dealing with Germany, as they know it was a too sensitive issue.

Such examples could go on and on.

What does this mean? It means respecting traditions and avoiding breaking taboos of different countries have nothing to do with a society’s freedom of speech and corresponding boundaries. Every society has its own standards, its most sensitive pain spot, and taboos that are not allowed to be violated. When talking about multiculturalism and transnational communication, it is often stressed that one should try to understand the cultures of different countries and societies, respect local customs especially the local taboos and sensitive issues, and avoid passing easy and wanton judgments on things according to one’s own moral standards. 

China and the US adopt the same standards. If a Chinese wants to promote a film or a piece of video advertisement in the US market, and this film or video contains racism, sexism, religious bias or disrespect for the US mainstream values, then it would just be “dead on arrival.” It is because the film or video has broken the bottom line of political incorrectness, even if it can be discussed within the scope of the freedom of speech. Therefore, China must respect the political correctness and convention in the US.

In turn, what are the social taboos, sensitive issues, and political correctness in China? They are the integrity of national sovereignty and territory. That is what China values the most.

US enterprises don’t have to learn why such viewpoints exist in China, just like we don’t have to have in-depth studies and evaluations on the World War II before we learn to avoid Yasukuni Shrine-related speeches when talking with the Japanese.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do. You must learn and respect the traditions of other countries because you are there communicating and conducting businesses with the local communities. If you offend them, they can choose to cut business relations. This has nothing to do with the freedom of speech. You have the right to make remarks and disrespect the political correctness in other countries, and similarly, the other countries also have the right to feel offended and make you pay.

This is what the NBA is encountering in China.

II. The NBA’s control over employees’ expressions in domestic scenario

The commissioners of the NBA or any basketball team of the league have rights to discipline their employees’ expression, which has nothing to do with the restrictions on the freedom of expression.

Donald Sterling, the former owner of Los Angeles Clippers, was thrown out of the NBA for life due to his racist comments.

On Apr. 26, 2014, TMZ Sports exposed the conversation between Sterling and his then-girlfriend in which he compelled her not to put photos with black people, including Magic Johnson, on her Instagram posts. On Apr. 30, NBA owner Adam Silver announced to ban Sterling for life and fined him $2.5 million. Moreover, Silver also said that he will try to force Sterling to sell the L.A. Clippers. Finally, the Clippers were under huge social pressures to sell the team.

I believe those who are following the NBA events must have read the above news. The message indicates that the league is adopting the double standards on Morey’s event, and it has the ability and actions to discipline the expressions of employees.

No racism is part of the political correctness in the US. The NBA’s slash on Sterling is attributed to his violation of the bottom line. Forcing Sterling to sell the team conforms to the common practice in the US and explains the country’s zero-tolerance on racism. By doing so, the NBA showed its political gesture and prevented the team from getting involved in endless disputes. The NBA is quite sensitive to racial issues. If Sterling weren’t punished, the NBA would suffer from the loss of players and a boycott from fans, and its image in the US might be tainted. Considering this, the NBA has no reason not to limit Sterling’s speech or even kick him out of the team.

American people have the most sensitive nerve on racial problems. Racial issues are major issues of principle and mark the boundary of speech freedom. The NBA has rights to discipline, limit or punish anyone who touches the line, and the organization has found a proper reason to do so by saying that the NBA has always been an institution for social integration and unity. It wants the overall stability and unity rather than any behaviors that may lead to separation and anxiety.

Is the NBA limiting its employees’ freedom of speech? As a commercial organization, the NBA enjoys the right to discipline its employees, set rules on their behaviors, and execute punishment measures. This is just a business decision, with no relations to the freedom of expression in the political scope.

Whoever feels dissatisfied with the NBA’s response, the only choice is to boycott the NBA.

The NBA only defends the freedom of speech of those employees who made remarks on issues having no relations with political correctness. The NBA is clearly aware of the American society and extremely sensitive on issues about race. They make the so-called right judgment based on social emotion and take any moves, including limiting employees’ freedom of speech, for the aim of protecting the league’s social image and economic benefits.

Those who believe that the NBA has no right to control employees’ words for the sake of defending their freedom of speech are talking nonsense.


(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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