Nike and the NBA are at the forefront of corporate virtue-signaling here in the United States. The footwear apparel company, in particular, has been eager to show the public how “woke” it is to the concerns of social justice. Earlier this year, they actually cancelled a special Betsy Ross flag-adorned sneaker because a handful of leftists mumbled something about slavery. Their embrace of Colin Kaepernick as a spokesman was a thumb in the eye of anyone who loves this country, not to mention police officers and military veterans. When it comes to taking up leftist causes, Nike and the NBA are two of our undisputed corporate leaders.
But when it comes to standing up for human rights around the world? Well…then their high-minded ethics get a little wonky. Particularly when there are hundreds of millions of dollars on the line.
Vice President Mike Pence called the companies out for this cowardly hypocrisy this week in a blistering speech. On Thursday in Washington, Pence criticized the NBA and Nike of caving to the pressure brought by the Beijing government after pulling Houston Rockets merchandise out of Chinese retail outlets. They did this because Rockets general manager Daryl Morey voiced his support for the anti-government protests playing out in Hong Kong.
“Nike promotes itself as a so-called “social justice champion,” sneered Pence. “But when it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the door.
“And some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of the people of China,” he continued, no doubt referring to superstar player LeBron James. “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly-owned subsidiary of that authoritarian regime.”
Pence’s larger point, however, was not to call out Nike and the NBA as exceptions but to note how often American companies are willing to trade the values of this nation if it means stuffing a few more dollars into the bank.
“By exploiting corporate greed, Beijing is attempting to influence American public opinion, coercing corporate America,” Pence warned. “And far too many American multinational corporations have kowtowed to the lure of China’s money and markets by muzzling not only criticism of the Chinese Communist Party, but even affirmative expressions of American values.”
The Hong Kong protests have indeed exposed the worst of this corporate greed, and they have showed how dangerous it is for American companies to build their business model so that it depends on subservience to Xi Jinping. Most of all, it has exposed the rank hypocrisy of corporate wokeness, proving that it was never about ideals and always about selling a few more tennis shoes.