- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 10, 2019

There’s good reason for all those headlines and media sniping regarding the NBA’s China brouhaha.

I had pretty much caved to my inner self to not write about the issue. Then, after reading the stories, the thunder struck the lightning bolt. Americans can be such hypocrites, and I couldn’t be silent.

“Shoosh,” as Big Mama would say. “This is ‘Merica, and in ‘Merica we have the right to free speech.”

We do, indeed, and that’s why Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey is one of my heroes of the week for tweeting that we Americans, here and abroad, should support the protesters in Hong Kong demanding the basic human right to speak their minds.

China is one of those nations that wants everyone to speak from the same script — or else.

Mr. Morey apologized for airing his views online after the NBA said he doesn’t speak for the league and he doesn’t speak for the Rockets, either. In fact, the PR mouthpiece for the Rockets even shut up two of the league’s most prolific players, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, an on-court duo Big Mama dubbed “Thundah and Lightnin.’

At any rate, they were told to shoosh, too.

Meanwhile, analyst and Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, who once played for the Rockets, took on the critics.

“They have billions of dollars at stake,” he said. “It’s a business decision. I understand the NBA. The players and the owners both got billions of dollars at stake.”

Those who do not understand that, Mr. Barkley added, are “idiots and jackasses and fools.”

Well, that was enough to untie Big Mama’s apron strings, and have a one-on-one with Sir Charles. Mr. Barkley may understand “the money thang,” but he clearly fails to see the “impo’tant picture.”

“Charles,” she said, “you get to say ‘bout anythin’ you wanna. Yet you think tha’ NBA should shoosh what they don’t wanna hear. That ain’t A-mer-I-can.”

And there’s the rub.

Mr. Barkley and others who side with the NBA for stuffing cotton in the mouths of officials and players forget not only America’s history, they forget that schools like Auburn University, Mr. Barkley’s alma mater, didn’t even integrate until 1968.

They also forget, or perhaps never learned, that the NBA itself didn’t allow its first black player until 1959.

So, the problem isn’t solely how the Chinese government treats its citizens. It’s how Americans treat other Americans.

Americans telling other Americans to shoosh is un-American, a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech.

Big Mama is very mindful of the warnings following 9/11 and the other traumatic incidents: “If you see something, say something.”

That’s why she spoke up about the NBA-China issue, and the first word out of her mouth was “Shoosh.”

She wants to know if you even care about free speech.

⦁ Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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