Here are two things that are true about me: I’ve been a lifelong supporter of human rights; I am not the captain of the Los Angeles Lakers, the most popular basketball team in North America, or so my plebeian friends tell me. Unfortunately, the National Basketball Association – known as the “NBA”, although I reserve my nicknames and nicknames for those I consider friends – does not allow me to play, despite the fact that I have the talent for do it. I’m not on the Lakers roster and I support human rights. One can only assume that the first follows from the second.
It’s getting worse. I’m not the only brave spokesperson whose human rights stance is currently holding me back from NBA glory – glory that, I can’t stress enough, I would definitely attain through my basketball skills. There is also the case of Enes Kanter Freedom, a former inside player for teams such as the Utah Jazz and the Oklahoma City Thunder, who is both, A) an outspoken human rights people oppressed by the Chinese government and, B) unemployed by any NBA team. Several of my esteemed colleagues from and around Bypass– covering the full spectrum of serious political ideologies, from “theoretically centrist conservative” to “ravenous nationalist of blood and soil” –noted this rank hypocrisy. Kanter Freedom began speaking out against the Chinese government’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims this year, yet after the trade deadline (this is an NBA mechanism somewhat similar to election day) it been canceled from the NBA. Needless to say, this sets a dangerous precedent.
My liberal colleagues from major radical left media like the Washington Post and The Atlantic have bravely pointed this out. “The reason he is no longer playing basketball has nothing to do with his performance on the court,” Marc Theissen wrote for WaPo. Although best known as a serial defender of foreign wars, Theissen also writes about Kanter’s exile with a passion that only true “fans” can know. “The Chinese regime may have the power to silence its critics at home,” he concludes. “But for the NBA to help a totalitarian dictatorship enter this country and punish one of its main critics is a disgrace.”
It’s not just an emotional argument, so let’s do the math. Freedom was selected third in the NBA draft 10 years ago, meaning he is, at worst, the 30th best player to enter the NBA in the last decade. There are 30 teams in the league. At least 27 of them would surely come in handy for the 2009 FIBA Europe Under-18 Championship bronze medalist. This pattern of fact certainly suggests that there should be a place for it in some starting line-up of the team. And sure enough there would be – if only he was willing to stop speaking his truth at places like CPAC, Fox News, that Koch-funded cutout, Voice Of America, and that guy’s podcast from the American Enterprise Institute. Liberty can’t help but the league’s elite seem to have concluded that he can’t do it as a member of their Association.
The NBA, in bed with Communist China, has clarified its position. If you have undeniable basketball skills but also a commitment to human rights, you not get a place in the league. It’s why I’m not the Lakers captain, and also why Freedom was shamefully kicked out of the league. Even before its cancellation by pro-China forces, Freedom was becoming marginalized. I defer here to George Packer of the Atlantic, who points out that Freedom had played the fewest minutes per game of his career.
“He accused the Celtics of benching him for his anti-China activism; the Celtics pointed to his difficulties defending the pick-and-roll,” Packer wrote. I don’t know what that means, and my point is valid. If the NBA wants to show that it cares about human rights – really cares, in the right way – it will immediately reinstate Freedom, who absolutely has the basketball talent to play in the NBA, and also make me the captain of the Los Angeles Lakers. Anything less would play into Xi Jinping’s hands.