Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert on Thursday appeared to be the first NBA player to speak up about China in the midst of the league’s ongoing social justice reckoning.
Gobert shared a post on his Instagram Stories and wrote: “Wrong is wrong.”
The post from actor and producer Omar Sy highlighted the plight of Uyghur Muslims in China.
“Millions of Uyghur Muslims are detained and tortured in concentration camps in China,” Sy wrote in the caption. “Not for what they do, but for who they are.
“It is the largest mass incarceration of the 21st century. It has to end.”
The NBA and China’s close relationship was brought to the light last fall when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was reprimanded for tweeting “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong” as several NBA teams were overseas. Specifically, the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets were about to start a series in China.
As political unrest continued to unravel in Hong Kong, Beijing responded to Morey’s tweet by removing NBA banners from the arenas that the Lakers and Nets were playing in. No player openly commented about China or the allegations that millions of Uyghur Muslims were being held in concentration camps.
LeBron James, who is at the forefront of social justice issues in the NBA, said at the time: “I’m not here to judge how the league handled the situation. I just think that, 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 all see what that did, not only did for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well. Sometimes you have to think through the things that 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.”
He added: “My team and this league just went through a difficult week. I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it.”
The NBA’s relationship China grew murkier when a bombshell ESPN report revealed the young participants in the NBA program were physically beaten by Chinese instructors and were not provided proper schooling, despite Commissioner Adam Silver’s previous commitment that education would be “central” to the program.
“A former league employee compared the atmosphere when he worked in Xinjiang to ‘World War II Germany,'” ESPN reported.
While the NBA allowed players to wear a social-justice message on the back of their jerseys during the restarted season, no one addressed China’s human rights violations.