The protagonist of this case, the general manager of the Golden State Warriors, an NBA dynasty, must contend with the recent controversy between China (the People's Republic of China, or PRC) and the National Basketball Association (NBA) over a pro–Hong Kong tweet, "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong," from the Houston Rockets general manager. Chinese retaliation to this tweet had been swift, with key Rockets marketing partners cutting ties with the team as well as China removing NBA games from the powerful CCTV5, the sports channel controlled by the PRC. As the rest of the NBA and the American public enter the fray, and facing a potential shutout from China, the manager must consider what role the Warriors organization should play in this controversy.
This case details the NBA's aggressive attempts to export its brand internationally, the NBA's culture of giving its members unfettered ability to speak out on often controversial issues (unlike other American sports organizations such as the NFL), and the political complexities of dealing with the international powerhouse that is Communist China. It also details the challenges facing the formerly independent (although under British rule) Hong Kong after it was handed back to China in 1997. The situation heated up in April 2019, when the PRC-appointed Hong Kong government proposed the approval of a new law that would allow the PRC to extradite Hong Kong residents. Violent protests ensued, rocking the country and drawing international attention and condemnation.
The Warriors franchise had leveraged inroads made by the NBA into the Chinese market effectively over the past decade, building up a loyal and lucrative Chinese fanbase. Many of the Warriors’ leading stars were set to hold a basketball clinic as well as a press conference in Shenzhen during the NBA's annual preseason games in China. All this was now threatened, and the manager must decide whether to cancel the trip altogether or make concessions to the Chinese government that would negate the NBA's carefully crafted spirit of individual rights, civil rights, and liberties that partly defined it in the United States.