Not for the first time, major US and global brands have been caught in the middle of soaring US-China tensions and ratcheting tit-for-tat actions and rhetoric.
This also as the anti-mainland Hong Kong protests seek to gain the same level of attention and momentum of support that global George Floyd protests have of the past weeks.
And now the NBA's biggest superstar has once again been thrust into the middle: "Hong Kong democracy activist Joshua Wong accused LeBron James of hypocrisy after the NBA superstar moved to form a group supporting black voting rights in the U.S.," Bloomberg reports.
Hong Kong's most visible activist who is backed by the US and UK has called out LeBron for putting Black Lives Matter protests front and center, lately with a new black voting rights awareness initiative, while staying silent on China-backed police brutality in Hong Kong.
And then there's the obvious fact of Hong Kong citizens not getting "the vote" regarding the recent deeply controversial China-imposed "national security law".
Defending democracy is vital, but @KingJames only talks loud in the US. On China, not only is he silent, he actively shuts others up. He called @dmorey "misinformed" and "not really educated" for supporting #HongKong. All he cares about is money, not human rights. Hypocritical. https://t.co/vxVMWIjsjY— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) June 11, 2020
Recall too that the NBA generally has remained in a financially vulnerable spot vis-a-vis the China issue after the Darl Morey tweet last year expressing support for HK street protests, leading Beijing to react by canceling lucrative broadcasts of NBA games in the country
Crucially James had turned against Morey's comments, calling the controversial tweet "misinformed" — and in doing so the Hong Kong activists saw it as essentially a total betrayal of their anti-Beijing democracy movement.
But especially given the current Black Lives Matter and George Floyd death related protests, Hong Kong activists have sought to both latch onto the movement while at the same time seeking mutual recognition from BLM leaders.
When it comes to pro-BLM NBA players, it doesn't appear that "support" will be coming anytime soon, also given the huge financial hit the NBA and other professional sports took amid the coronavirus shutdowns, and given the delicate future of the NBA in China.
Interestingly Wong is seen as close to both Western activists and even State Department officials, given also he's recently testified before Congress.
It's likely other major American brands will face the same dilemma.
"Believe in something, unless you are criticizing China."
Do citizens of Hong Kong get a vote?...
Everyone talking about “how do we fix this?” They say “go out and vote?” What about asking if how we vote is also structurally racist? https://t.co/GFtq12eKKt— LeBron James (@KingJames) June 9, 2020
Amid a trend of corporations rushing to jump on popular protest band wagons of the day, in the case of Hong Kong they're likely to consult the check book first, with high notions of freedom, democracy, and equality a far second.