Joe Tsai
Joe Tsai

Let's Go Nets! There already was a lot of buzz surrounding the Brooklyn Nets for the 2019/2020 season, following the additions of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Wilson Chandler.

That buzz grew louder but took a detour around midnight Oct. 6 when Nets owner Joe Tsai posted an open letter to NBA fans on Facebook. Via the post, Tsai plunged head-first into the squabble between the NBA and China over a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the Hong Kong protestors.

Tsai, the first Chinese owner of an NBA franchise, repeated the official line of the Beijing government when he called the protestors a “separatist movement.”

That would be news to the millions of Hong Kongers, who have participated in the weekly protests since they began on June 9.

They hit the streets because the government of the People’s Republic of China has been chipping away at the freedoms enjoyed by Hong Kong. A measure that would have allowed for the extradition of criminal suspects to the Mainland for trial was the final straw.

Rather than advocating for independence, protestors march in support of the freedom and autonomy that the Chinese government guaranteed in 1997 when it took over Britain's former colony.

Tsai, co-founder with Jack Ma of China’s Alibaba e-commerce site, dismissed the argument that the Rockets' Morey was expressing his right to free speech by tweeting about Hong Kong.

He called freedom of speech “an inherent American value” and noted that the NBA “has been very progressive in allowing players and other constituents a platform to speak out on issues.”

What’s going to happen if Durant, Irving, Chandler, Joe Harris or any other Net exercises his freedom of speech during the upcoming season? Will he be rebuked by Tsai?

As a Nets fan, I’ll be watching.

The whole world should watch the editorial direction of the 116-year-old influential South China Morning Post, which Alibaba purchased in 2015, in the event that China decides to crack down on the Hong Kong protestors.

On Dec. 11, 2015, the SCMP asked Tsai, who is worth $9.5B and ranks No. 147 on Forbes’ richest people list, if he thought Beijing was trying to muzzle Hong Kong’s vibrant media by encouraging Chinese tycoons to buy the outlets.

He promised to retain the vitality of the English-language paper.

Tsai said: “We have to have readers’ trust. That will depend on reporting that is objective, balanced and fair…. Even though we are the corporate owner, we will let the editors decide the editorial policy and direction of coverage for any story.”

After Tsai's slap at freedom of speech, things look pretty iffy for the independence of SCMP.