The Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are set to play the second of two exhibition basketball games in China Saturday night and the buzzer can’t sound soon enough.
The game will wrap up a rough week for the NBA, one that involved apologizing for a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager supporting Hong Kong protestors, then backpedaling from the apology. The events led the NBA to cancel all media and a players’ press conference.
“What's happening in the NBA is going to shift things in a much more dramatic direction, and the U.S. government has become a lot more involved in this pushback against the Beijing pressure on U.S. corporates,” said Leland Miller, CEO of China Beige Book, which operates the largest private data-collection network to track the Chinese marketplace.
Miller noted that it’s not the first time a corporation or organization has had a dust-up with China. ”What's made the NBA controversy different than previous controversies with hotel chains or airlines is America's starting to pay attention. And what you saw before is it was a bullet point in a newspaper article you read,” he said.
The U.S. government “has to influence the behavior of businesses who have been thinking myopically for a long time, just to appease the Chinese government in order to get market share. China's this beautiful, potential market for growth, and so they have a lot of pressure to be able to put on individual corporations.”
The NBA incident represents “an inflection point for American public tolerance of Chinese government pressure on corporate bullying.”
“This is really upsetting people across the partisan divide, and there's going to be a congressional reaction to this,” MIller said. It already sparked a group of politicians on both sides of the aisle. Politicians from Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) penned a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver urging the NBA to suspend activities in China.
“Even the NBA has shut things down, saying, we need to push reset and figure out how to readjust our thinking on this,” he said. “So I think what's happening in the NBA is going to shift things in a much more dramatic direction, and the U.S. government has become a lot more involved in this pushback against the Beijing pressure on U.S. corporates.”
Joanna Campione is a producer for Yahoo Finance.