Editor’s Note: The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Hoops Inquirer and its staff.
Bear with me.
Many folks applauded the NBA for standing by its word and pulling the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte. This, of course, was due to the passing of House Bill 2. HB2 is a controversial bill that has upset many, including the NBA and companies such as PayPal.
Now, before we delve into this, let me get this out of the way. I am, personally, against HB2. This isn’t a column in favor of keeping HB2. Hell, it isn’t even a column about removing HB2. This is about the NBA and the role of professional sports.
Many fans applauded the NBA’s actions and perhaps with good reason. In May 2013, Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in the NBA. Collins’ bravery and courage helped pave the path for others to follow. The NBA, in a way, has championed social issues among the big three North American sports leagues. In this case, with Collins, perhaps it was a bit personal to the NBA. HB2 undermines the laws that protected members from the LGBTQ community from discrimination. Thus, giving North Carolina an ultimatum was perhaps especially important to them. However, there lies the problem.
Assuming you are of the side that believes HB2 is wrong and immoral, I suppose this is a small victory for you. A better victory, of course, would have been North Carolina getting rid of the bill or changing it, while keeping the All-Star Game. Regardless, the NBA stood up for the LGBTQ community, right? In that case, this all seems very noble of the NBA and we should be thankful. Unfortunately, this sort of action is dangerous.
Again, assuming the NBA’s action aligns with what is morally right (which can be debatable in certain cases), then great! Good is good. Good prevails. However, what if they were somehow on the immoral side of such an issue? The NBA is a professional sports league and it should do its job: entertain us with their product. Their job isn’t to influence social or political change. This tweet from the Crossover Chronicles summarizes it best.
It doesn’t matter what side of the argument you fall on regarding HB2. The NBA—as well as any corporation or group of people with significant power, influence or money—should not be affecting public policy. Remember, elected officials passed this bill. Those responsible for the passing of HB2 were democratically chosen to represent the people and act on their behalf. Essentially, the NBA’s ultimatum to North Carolina was financial pressure to change public policy. More specifically, it undermines democracy.
See, assuming the NBA is on the side considered morally good, this sort of action is no different than what lobbyists do. It’s no different than what the Koch Brothers do to influence politics. You see, the Koch brothers donating $889 million dollars to the 2016 election has the same premise to it. Here’s financial pressure, either you’re with us or you get hurt.
The city of Charlotte will lose quite a lot of money by not having the All-Star Game. The NBA’s ultimatum to North Carolina was financial pressure to incite manipulation. That’s no different than the Koch brothers funding most of a presidential candidate’s campaign, in return for their loyalty regarding oil. It’s the same as the NRA funding a candidate in return for their loyalty regarding guns and protecting the second amendment. Money is power, and money should never influence or undermine democracy. That’s what makes the NBA’s action dangerous. We’re just lucky that, it seems, it’s what the majority wanted in this case.
Imagine for a second, however, the NBA getting their way. Charlotte keeps the All-Star Game and North Carolina gets rid of HB2. That’s a professional sports league influencing the laws of a state. That, under no circumstances, should be okay. If you’re of the belief that HB2 is wrong, you as a person should speak out against it. You should remove the people from office who passed it and elect those who will fight it. That’s what democracy is about: the people having a voice and say. The NBA, and corporations, are not people. Now, the players as individuals have every right to their opinion.
It’s a double-edged knife. The NBA stood up for something. Great. But when and how do they choose what to stand up for? China has an awful human rights record, yet the NBA doesn’t hesitate at all to explore that market and make a profit. You can even argue that Mexico has human rights issues that are too awful for the NBA to be helping a city’s economy for a night, yet the NBA will host two games in Mexico City this upcoming season. So where exactly does the league draw the line on addressing social issues?
Don’t answer that. That’s part of the problem. It’s not their job to address such issues and they shouldn’t. The role of professional sports leagues in society is to entertain. This sort of involvement in politics, as a league, is dangerous. Again, it’s a different story if it’s the players as individuals. I'm all for players protesting and making their voices heard; I'm especially proud of the WNBA teams voicing their opinion. Individuals have every right to voice their opinion. However a league as a whole should not be enforcing its opinion by flexing its money. Assuming you’re for HB2 in North Carolina, the NBA essentially tried to drown your voice with their financial influence. That is not how a democracy should work.