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End the duopoly

The NBA, China and racial justice: How to untangle the league’s messy relationship with human rights

Here are two statements:

The NBA, by professional sports league standards, has a decently strong record on human rights. It allows players to speak their minds . It believes that Black lives matter . It uses its power to fight injustice in the United States.

The NBA, an adored global corporation, has also gone to great lengths to build and maintain a multibillion-dollar relationship with a human rights-abusing government halfway around the world.

They are two factual statements that at this time last year coexisted peacefully. Yet recently, they’ve become entangled, pitted against each other, by U.S. Senators and laypeople alike. On Thursday, when the NBA season resumes, activism will be inescapable; players will protest police brutality and racial injustice; “BLACK LIVES MATTER” will scream at viewers off courts . And perhaps the most common criticism of the NBA’s initiatives will be a prickly diversion.

“But what about China?!?”

It’s a fascinating retort, because it’s grounded in the most glaring demerit on the NBA’s recent record. An ESPN investigation published Wednesday raised more red flags . For years, the league ignored authoritarian crackdowns and ethnic persecution as it built and monetized a rabid fan base in China. It ran an abusive basketball […]

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