Email Ken Stallings   The Price of Liberty

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Does liberty have a price, or is liberty truly priceless?

It would seem a strange question for an American.  Of all nations on earth, the United States has stood for generations as a beacon of human liberty.  One would think that for an American there is only one acceptable option for that question, that liberty is indeed priceless, and that only a fool would sell his liberty for any price.

No more authentically an American than Samuel Adams famously wrote:

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animated contest of freedom -- go home from us in peace.  We ask not your counsels or arms.  Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you.  May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen!"

Adam Silver, the current commissioner of the National Basketball Association, perhaps has never read that quote.  Fans of the Boston Celtics might force him to, given that Samuel Adams is one of their own.  But, in that regard, he's as much an ancestor for any right thinking American.  The NBA currently profits to the tune of $500 million annually from several business agreements with the Chinese government.  So, given the sniveling manner in which Silver recently apologized to the Chinese government over the entirely moral statements of just one league general manager, it would appear clear that for Silver, liberty does have its price, and it hovers in the area of a few hundred million US dollars.

But, this profit over integrity mindset goes beyond just Adam Silver.  Prominent league coaches and players, who have frequently used their social media accounts to publicly criticize all sorts of perceived social injustices within the United States, are suddenly quite silent, and reluctant to even answer questions about the PRC, and their heavy-handed manner of openly demanding that the league sanction anyone who dares utter anything objectionable to the Communist oligarchs.  Indeed, the PRC, through it's state run media, actually said that it was objectionable that Adam Silver even said that the First Amendment rights of the league's personnel was sacrosanct.

In response, the Chinese government has immediately cancelled signed contracts for games, merchandise sales, and even charity events.  This is the sad reality of trying to appease tyrants.  In trying to do so, you end up both poorer and sullied.  It would seem better to preserve ones morality, and take the financial hit by standing firm on our Constitutional principles by telling the Chinese to take their money and go back home with it!

Given the NBA's most recent example, combined with case after case of other American corporations selling their souls to the Chinese, that somewhere along the line we created a litmus test to be a CEO.  One has to agree to abandon our Constitutional liberties in order to make money from unsavory characters! 

That's a bitter revelation, but in addition to that lesson, the NBA should learn another.  It doesn't require courage to criticize a sitting President of the United States.  That First Amendment right means you are free to do so.  No, the real courage is shown by those people in Hong Kong, who are risking death to stand up to the strong armed thugs of the Chinese government.  So, the next time you read Stephen Curry, Lebron James, or Greg Popovich condemn President Trump, ask them why, when reporters asked them, they were strangely silent about Chinese human rights abuses within Hong Kong!

Liberty isn't reserved just for Americans.  Tyranny is not a birthright of Communist oligarchs in the PRC.  Whistling silently past the graveyard of Chinese thuggery, while railing against a President criticizing athletes who refuse to respect the American flag before a game, strikes all fair-minded people as an exercise in phony moral outrage.

The NBA should also take a lesson regarding how quickly so many Chinese business agreements have vanished, despite highly questionable apologies already made.  That's life in a state-controlled society, where a few outraged tyrants call the shots, and demand and get unquestioned obedience.  In the PRC, if you criticize the government, you go to prison, likely get beaten, and possibly get killed.  Mao Zedung instituted a Communist Cultural Revolution that was responsible for 60 million Chinese people dying due to starvation, murder, and other depravations.  This represents the greatest single politically caused mass death experience in the 20th century, vastly worse than the Nazi scourge of the Holocaust!

But, the path to great tyranny often begins with  the small step of crushing a few peoples' expressed freedoms.  And for the NBA, that first step was to confiscate two small yellow signs from two people, who attended an exhibition game between the Philadelphia Sixers and a Chinese team.  The signs were held in a way that did not prevent other fans from watching the game, and the chants made by these two were not so loud as to prevent the game being played.  Indeed, numerous photographs confirm that fans seated by the two protesters seemed to barely notice.  One sign read "Free Hong Kong," while the other read, "Free HK!"  But, that was deemed offensive to the NBA's Chinese associates, and the two were escorted out of the building.  The Sixers peddled a cover story about receiving complaints from other fans that the two protesters disrupted the game, but those at the game quickly disputed that account.  Now, the Sixers and the NBA have been forced to explain themselves, and the initial efforts look quite ugly.

It's a heavy weight indeed that binds one to Chinese Communist business interests!  In such a relationship, if you anger and apologize, you get hurt immediately and some.  If you anger and don't apologize, you get destroyed as quick as possible.  That doesn't strike me as the sort of relationship that reasonable people enter into, much less stay with.  In this case, it appears the Chinese Communists did not feel their hands were sufficiently licked.  Perhaps, in the future, Adam Silver and the NBA will do a better job of collective hand licking and prostration.  It takes time to go from being a free American to a subservient Chinese Communist serf!  And as the NBA works on being better at groveling before tyrants, we can become better at forgetting that they were ever our countrymen!

-- Ken Stallings

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