Think Before You Tweet
A recent uproar resulted from Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey’s since-deleted tweet which supported the freedom movement in Hong Kong.
A recent uproar resulted from Houston Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey’s since-deleted tweet which supported the freedom movement in Hong Kong. In the aftermath, the National Basketball Association (NBA) faced criticism from all areas of the political spectrum for its treatment of this issue. In response to last issue’s editorial regarding this issue and its role in highlighting the values we hold true as a community, I believe a more thorough overview reveals additional lessons that come with this incident. The errors committed by the NBA, mostly due to oversight and poor judgement, show the importance of context and discretion when partaking in topics with great divides of opinion in this hyper-bipartisan world—members of our community should always seek to understand their place in an issue before taking a side.
Protests in Hong Kong began in June of this year with hundreds of thousands taking to the streets in opposition to a new extradition bill that allowed criminals to be tried in mainland China, where Hong Kongers feared that the legal system would be far more unjust, especially in the treatment of political dissidents. The bill was withdrawn in September, but many still remain unsatisfied, calling for universal suffrage. Actions from police and protestors have become increasingly violent. Protestors have stormed the legislative building, temporarily caused a shutdown of the airport, and clashed with pro-China protests and police; the entire city has remained in a state of unrest for months. As a result, the protests have been coined as riots by the Chinese government and have even been compared to terrorism.
Given the complexity of this situation, the NBA fiasco ought to remind us, as a community, of the importance of information; the way we dispel information and the context in which information spreads makes all the difference. Morey’s tweet stated, “Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong.” This tweet was posted on Twitter then subsequently deleted. This initial action raises the importance of context; Morey’s posting of a powerful slogan directly opposed the Chinese government’s views on a censored social media forum but was no doubt closely monitored by said government. Worse still, as the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Morey represents one of the most commercially valuable sectors in athletics: He is worth billions of dollars and followed by a fanbase of anywhere from 300 million to 500 million Chinese enthusiasts, many of whom not only view the Hong Kong protests very differently from the way the West perceives it, but also would also receive a translated and possibly manipulated version of his beliefs. To call his post an oversight would be a gross understatement. In our own community, mistakes of judgement should have far less severe consequences, and ideas in opposition to the norms should be applauded, but these must be framed well and delivered correctly. We should strive to choose words that describe precisely what we intend, forgoing the ease and separation social media grants us, since we have nowhere to hide when confronted with the tangible results of our actions. In Morey’s case, he certainly did not properly consider how he would be perceived by both the Chinese government and its people.
However, merely anticipating problems does not suffice; one should always be aware of the causes of problems, think carefully before taking a side, and know when to express opinions. Though the NBA has faced backlash over its response to this issue, especially the remarks of Commissioner Adam Silver that pledged support to free speech while also apologizing towards Chinese fans, its position between two ideologically opposing world powers renders the organization little choice in what they can say. On one hand, the NBA, as an American organization, should support American values; on the other hand, it risks losing access to its largest market. A business should never place itself in between opposing populations, and such is the extent of bipartisanship that in this day and age, that seems like the only option. However, in truth, knowing when to engage in conversation and when to back out should be a skill all Lawrentians take away from our experiences. In the case of the NBA, Morey’s comment represented a personal opinion and did not represent the overall view of the NBA.
Given the speed at which information disperses in the digital age, communicating ideas clearly and cautiously has never been more paramount. Individual opinions, especially controversial ones, should always be made clear as personal views only. Morey’s tweet, short and resembling a slogan, left much to be interpreted. The Chinese government saw this blunder as a great opportunity to stir the flames. Consequently, an offhand comment by an employee was conflated as a company opinion, and with both parties one step too slow to apologize, the issue became an international conflict across cultures and regions, affecting hundreds of millions of people. Evidently, the way we express ourselves matters now more than ever.
When engaging in these sorts of topics, we should hold our own opinions accountable and act with clear intent. Never dive headfirst into issues which one does not understand: listen, weigh the consequences, then engage. All of this appears intuitive, but time and time again, headlines feature prominent figures blundering their way into the internet spotlight. Making a claim and spreading it has never been easier, but that should only make us think harder about why and how we express our opinions.