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Boy, ESPN isn't kidding. When the (mostly) sports network decided to get away from commenting on political matters, it decided to evade political matters entirely.

Where are Jemele Hill and Michael Smith when you need them? Sure, they might have leaned a little to the left of Bernie Sanders, but they called 'em like they saw 'em. They would have never ignored this.

Looking at the headlines on ESPN--on TV and the Internet site--you find that the Angels have a new manager. That's a baseball team. We think it's in Los Angeles, or somewhere in California.

The Dolphins are changing quarterbacks for this weekend's game, if anybody cares. Some cornerback got traded from the Jags. In college ball, there's an advance on the Oregon vs. Washington game. And another story about Carmelo Anthony--in October, no less.

You have to dig deep, or watch after the break, to find the hurricane on The Weather Channel.

Thank goodness the Associated Press is still covering sporting news. It seems King James--that is, LeBron James, for those who can't be bothered with nicknames--has weighed in on The Case of the Hong Kong Tweet.

And being the most recognizable face in the NBA, what he says matters. Or perhaps what he says makes news.

You'll remember that some NBA general manager down in Houston tweeted earlier this month about the goings-on in Red China. The entirety of the tweet consisted of seven words: "Fight for freedom. Stand with Hong Kong."

Not exactly war-mongering stuff. But the ChiComs objected. If they're bashing heads in Hong Kong, how is that the NBA's business?

Speaking of business, the NBA was playing pre-season games on mainland China when the tweet appeared. And there are a lot of basketball fans among the Chinese. The growing middle class there has tons of disposable income. There are a billion people there who need shoes, for example.

LeBron James has been called one of the most outspoken athletes on social justice in the United States today. And the NBA has been called the one of the most progressive sports leagues in the country when it comes to such matters.

But even the great King James can't seem to find the words to criticize Red China. Not after the Chinese government backed out of showing NBA games on its state-run television stations, forced its companies to cut ties with the Houston team, and otherwise got all up into the NBA's checkbook.

Mr. James' first comments to the press Monday night:

"I'm not here to judge how the league handled the situation. When you're misinformed or you're not educated about something--and I'm just talking about the tweet itself--you never know the ramifications that can happen. We can all see what that did, for our league and for all of us in America and people in China as well. Sometimes you have to think through things you say that may cause harm not only for yourself but for the majority of people. I think that's just a prime example of that."

The AP says politicians, human rights groups and even fans criticized, yes, LeBron James for those comments. It's not a common sight.

On Tuesday, Mr. James thought about matters, apparently, and gave the world this: "Obviously, it's a tough situation that we're all in right now . . . . I think when the issue comes up, if you feel passionate about it or you feel like it's something that you want to talk about, then so be it. I also don't think that every issue should be everybody's problem as well."

Not exactly brave, that.

As far as being in a tough situation, tell it to the protesters in Hong Kong, who are getting the working ends of nightsticks and hammers for demonstrating against the ChiComs.

But LeBron James isn't the only NBA employee who's taking the easy way out--or trying to. (It's hardly easy when you try to evade a question and social media tears you apart.)

On Tuesday, the media was quick to ask questions of some Houston Rockets. (The GM hasn't been heard from in weeks.)

The coach of the team, Mike D'Antoni, "declined to say much of anything about James' comments," according to the AP.

James Harden--another superstar in the league--claimed ignorance.

The Rockets' center, Tyson Chandler, gave the press this much: "I think again everybody's thoughts are their own." He managed a truism, among his milksop words: That LeBron James' thoughts are his own and his GM's thoughts are his, as well. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, this was not.

Okay, then, at least everybody knows where they stand. Far be it from any red-blooded capitalist American newspaper/business to deny a person, or a league, the chance to make a buck. And keep the bucks coming in. There's a lot of money to be made in China these days. And in the days to come.

But the next time the guys in The Association want to speak out about social issues and wag fingers at NFL owners who, for example, might think players kneeling during the National Anthem hurts business, let's all remember this little dance.

The whole back-and-forth and controversy might remind you of A Man For All Seasons, a play by Robert Bolt. In it, St. Thomas More says to Richard, who had betrayed him to the crown: "It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. . . but for Wales?"

But for communist China?

This wasn't a good week for the NBA. Or for free speech, democracy, freedom protesters or the rest of us who'd like to sleep o' night.

Editorial on 10/20/2019

Print Headline: King James version

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