“The NBA has lived up to its values by supporting the rights of Daryl Morey and others to express their views, despite the significant impact on our business,” said Mike Bass, an NBA spokesperson, Wednesday.
Ultimately, the affair showed how even the most conscientious organizations could undermine their plans by Chinese politics, how any company could unwittingly become a vessel for an international feud.
“If you make both sides angry, it means there is no middle ground, which I think was significant,” said Beijing-based sports analyst Dreyer.
Like other observers, Dreyer suggested the WTA’s stance was potentially groundbreaking. But he also noted that it may have been easier for the WTA to face China than it was for, say, the NBA, for two reasons.
First, because the pandemic had already forced the WTA to cancel its events in China for the foreseeable future, the tour didn’t necessarily cost large sums of money in the short term. (Of course, severing ties with China permanently would require the WTA Tour to replace tens of millions of dollars in revenue and prize money.) Second, because China has essentially lost every mention of Peng and the ensuing international outcry from its news and social media has cleared, the WTA brand may not have such a big hit there. Many in China just don’t know anything about Peng or the WTA’s response.
“In the NBA, they were burning jerseys,” Dreyer said. “You don’t have that reaction to tennis.”
Certainly, major sports leagues with deep, long-standing interests in China, barring an extreme turn of events, are not likely to exit the market anytime soon. And some organizations are still going all-in.