tolerating corruption, or not

Everyone knows that professional sports around the world are utterly and unfixably corrupt. Was there ever a chance that Manchester City’s ban from the Champions League would be upheld? I doubt that anyone in the whole wide world thought so. Corruption is baked into the system, and no reasonable person could think otherwise.

Last year, when Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, expressed support for democracy in Hong Kong and thereby brought the wrath of the CCP down upon him, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver mumbled a bit about free speech — but since then, as far as I can tell, the only person associated with the NBA who has expressed support for Morey is Shaquille O’Neal — and even Shaq acknowledged the need to “tiptoe around things” when commerce is involved. What are the chances that anyone employed by the NBA says a critical word about China from now on?

Senator Josh Hawley’s suggestion that ESPN — as a theoretically journalistic enterprise, at least sometimes, though the “E” in ESPN stands for “entertainment” — ought to cover the NBA’s Chinese entanglements received a now-notorious two-word response from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Which was interesting, if readily comprehensible. Woj gets paid by ESPN, ESPN gets paid by the NBA, the NBA gets paid by China; Woj was outraged by the merest hint that his own personal gravy train should be looked into. But the fact that he made that response using his ESPN email account suggests how invulnerable he thinks he is, and he has been proven correct. ESPN “suspended” him, which only means that they gave him a few days of vacation. Meanwhile, the league has decided that it’s better to disallow any custom text on the jerseys they sell rather than allow someone to have “FreeHongKong.”

As I said in the first paragraph of this post: this is all par for the course. And yet for some reason, some reason I can’t quite grasp, it has stuck in my craw, and I have decided — or rather, I haven’t decided, I just feel — that I don’t want to have anything to do with either ESPN or the NBA. Is it the brazenness of Woj’s contempt for elementary journalistic ethics? Is it Adam Silver’s jaw-droppingly hypocritical simultaneous embrace of (a) racial justice and (b) “mutual respect” with China? (As Garry Kasparov noted, “China has Uyghur concentration camps and is preparing to crush Hong Kong and he talks of ‘mutual respect’? What a joke.”) Could be either, or both. But is the NBA any more brazen or hypocritical than Manchester City’s petrodollar-laden ownership group and the system that enables them? I think not.

And yet I expect to keep watching the Premier League — even Manchester City. And I think the real reason for that decision is this: right now Premier League soccer is a better game than NBA basketball. It may be as simple as that.

In any case, I am writing this post not to complain about corruption but rather to point to this curious trait I have — one I am sure I share with you, dear reader: extreme moral inconsistency. Continuing to watch the Premier League while turning up my exquisitely sensitive olfactory organ at the NBA makes no moral sense. Yet it looks like that’s what I’m going to do. I suppose I should think of it this way: One step at a time. Make a tiny and mostly insignificant moral stand today, and maybe that will enable me to make another one next month. And then I’ll progress from strength to strength, and by the time I’m 275 years old I might be a decent person.