On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. The next day the House passed it 417-1. It now goes to President Trump, and he is expected to sign it promptly. The Human Rights and Democracy Act would require the secretary of state to certify annually that Hong Kong continues to preserve enough autonomy from China’s communist tyranny so as to justify its continuing to benefit from special trade status with America. Otherwise the president is authorized to impose sanctions. The act further declares solidarity with student protesters fighting for democracy and human rights in Hong Kong.
1. Chinese Communist Persecution of Minorities and Suppression of Freedom
The act’s passage comes on the heels of revelations in more than 400 leaked pages from inside the Chinese government’s highest echelons that China has been pursuing a concerted campaign of genocide against its Uighur Muslim population, accompanied by torture, concentration camps, and instructions to show “absolutely no mercy.” Meanwhile, China now is crushing dissent over repression in Hong Kong, with some 600 pro-freedom student activists holed up in the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, surrounded by riot police using tear gas and rubber bullets to crush their resistance.
People of conscience understand the power of condemning evil. For most of us, alas, we simply do not enjoy benefit of a public platform large enough to impact a tyranny like China by speaking out against their communist evil. Others have the platform but not the opportunity. Recently, the National Basketball Association (NBA) played some games in China, with the Los Angeles Lakers playing against the Brooklyn Nets in Shanghai. Only days earlier, the general manager of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey, created an international stir by tweeting his condemnation of China’s suppression of freedom in Hong Kong. Now the opportunity and platform presented itself to Lakers star LeBron James to speak out on Chinese soil for freedom. James has a history of speaking out on politics, appearing at Hillary Clinton rallies, regularly attacking President Trump, recently stomping off a basketball court while yelling in the middle of the national anthem, and even telling a talk show host that “I mean too much to society” to be silent on political issues. So this was his moment, while being feted in China, to speak a word for freedom and democracy in Hong Kong.
And, given the opportunity of a lifetime, he proved to be a gutless coward. By cowering and backing down, LeBron James publicly conveyed to the Chinese dictatorship that voices in the West will remain silent and that China is free to persecute and murder millions while James and his corporate sponsor, Nike, rake in their respective millions, devoid of conscience.
2. The Power of Voices of Conscience Speaking out for Freedom: The Soviet Jewry Experience of the 1970s
When I was in college I marched for freedom for Soviet Jewry. The issue dominated my college years and my social conscience. Communism is the world’s blight, and every people who encountered it learned it. The Ukrainians were mass-murdered in the millions during the mass starvation, the Golodomor, that was covered up by Walter Duranty and the despicable New York Times. The East Germans. The Poles. The Hungarians. The Georgians. The Armenians. The Latvians. The Romanians. The list is longer than the current field of Democrat candidates for president.
Many were surprised when activists in the American Jewish community emerged as the most anti-communist street activists of all. Stereotypes take time to fabricate, and they take even more time to fracture and demolish. Inasmuch as certain Jewish apostates were part of communism — the viciously anti-Semitic Karl Marx; the despicable Leon Trotsky, who so hated Judaism that he changed his name from Lev Bronstein to dissociate and then devoted himself to murdering Jews; and others of that apostate ilk who comprised the communist Yevsektsiya, which persecuted rabbis, closed down synagogues and yeshiva schools, and banned Judaic practices — many needed some time to grasp that Jews were mass-marching against communism and were in the forefront of protesting at Soviet “cultural events” brought to America because communism at its ideological core always has aimed to destroy Judaism.
We demanded an end to American “cultural exchanges” with the USSR as long as the communists would not let Jews leave the accursed Soviet Union. We did not even bother asking the Soviets to “improve conditions”; we just demanded that they let Jews get the hell out of their Soviet Hell and “workers’ paradise.” In that battle, a great, subtle war unfolded as the Soviets tried sending America the Moscow Circus, the Bolshoi Ballet, violinists, opera performers, Russian ice hockey teams, and others who would aim to fool Americans into thinking that the communist Hell was a place of culture. As Hitler had done successfully during the 1936 Olympics, they wanted to use cultural and sport performances to con the gullible ignoramuses of the West, already bombarded with endless left-wing propaganda from the Corrupt Journalist Corps, into believing that communist Russia and the USSR was a fine place being maligned by fascist falsifiers. But we were determined not to let the Soviet Union build cultural bridges over the bodies of Soviet Jews.
During our fight, we felt it imperative to find allies in the American cultural and sports worlds to speak openly against Soviet repression. It was hard because the Corrupt Journalist Corps is controlled by leftists, and leftists resist to this very day conceding that their socialist ideals are corrupt, corrosive, and murderous. Just as the corrupt leftist New York Times hid the Golodomor from its readers and falsified Stalin’s mass murder of Ukrainians, with their lying Moscow Bureau Chief Duranty winning a Pulitzer Prize for his lies, so it was that the New York Times even hid the Nazi Holocaust against Jews. The Times by and large refused to report on the unfolding Nazi Holocaust of six million Jews. Between 1939 and 1945, the New York Times published more than 23,000 front-page stories. Of those, 11,500 were about World War II. Only 26 — in six years — were about the Holocaust. The Times was passively complicit. They buried stories on back pages, denied even more critical stories the light of day, and published outright lies.
In such a world, it takes powerful and strong voices to cut through the leftist blackout by the Corrupt Journalist Corps in every generation. It often takes media heroes, celebrities prepared to speak out for freedom and truth, no matter the personal cost. When they do, it means they will be making enemies among the Corrupt Journalist Corps and may even be compromising their standing with fans. It may cost actors movie roles and athletes product endorsements because it is the American Left who impose professional blacklisting. But that is one way that heroism manifests itself.
3. The Nonsense and Disgrace of Blithely Describing Skillful Athletes as “Heroes”
It is a paradox that sports athletes often are called “heroes.” Really? Because a lug can throw a football accurately and with consistency, or can run with it over tackling defenders, or can catch it while other defenders are trying to block him, that makes him a hero? Because a lug can hurl a ball 60 feet and 6 inches consistently with pinpointed accuracy at 98 mph, occasionally varying his delivery with a ball that curves or slides or knuckles, that makes him a hero? Because he can hit a home run once every 10 times at bat or has a unique ability to get the big hit when it matters most, that makes him a hero? Because he has a muscular body and can bounce a ball and contort his torso in the face of defenders in driving towards a basket and then can dunk the ball 10 feet high or can toss it through a hoop from a distance of 24 feet, that makes him a hero?
Forgive me, but I just solemnly observed Veterans Day last week. I define “hero” differently. People who landed in Normandy in 1944 were heroes. People who went to Afghanistan to kill Taliban and to Iraq to capture Saddam Hussein and to Syria to kill ISIS and to Pakistan to kill Bin Laden were heroes. Thousands upon thousands of others in our armed forces — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the various associated units — were and are heroes, even if they were not assigned to the most dangerous of missions but simply gave up their freedoms to stand in harm’s way, always at the risk of their limbs and even lives, and sometimes at the cost of their limbs or lives. Those are heroes. Nathan Hale was a hero. Alvin York was a hero. Tibor Rubin was a hero.
By contrast, LeBron James is a gutless coward. A worm, a helminth feeding off the public trough.
4. Distinguishing a True American Patriot and Hero Who Happened to Be an Athlete From a Gutless Coward Like LeBron James
If I want an example of a sports hero, I look to Hank Greenberg, who hit 331 home runs during his extraordinary career but who missed four full years of baseball during the apex of his career to serve in the United States armed forces from 1941–44. His salary dropped from $55,000 a year ($984,000 in today’s numbers) to $21 a month ($400 in today’s numbers). He said, “I made up my mind to go when I was called. My country comes first.” When he was discharged upon reaching age 28, the age limit for military service as per army regulations at the time, he then reenlisted in the air force. He rose in officer ranks and ended up devoting 47 months in the service, longer than any other active major league player in history.
During those years he had been hitting more than 50 home runs annually. He had hit 58 in 1938, in a campaign that almost made baseball history. During his last month of that incredible season, Hank Greenberg was “intentionally walked” in 20 percent of his plate appearances, often by anti-Semitic pitchers who simply did not want to allow a Jew to break Babe Ruth’s 1927 record of 60 home runs. Had Greenberg avoided the service, he would today be celebrated in baseball’s annals among the very few who ever hit 500 or more home runs. But he was a hero. On the very first day that he returned to the Detroit Tigers after the war, after four years away, he hit a home run.
Likewise, as a Jew, although he decidedly was not religious, he heroically sat out a critical end-of-season game in 1934, when the Tigers had everything on the line, to make the point that, as a Jew, he would not play baseball on Yom Kippur. In his biography, Greenberg wrote,
The team was fighting for first place, and I was probably the only batter in the lineup who was not in a slump. But in the Jewish religion, it is traditional that one observe the [Rosh Hashanah] holiday solemnly, with prayer. One should not engage in work or play. And I wasn’t sure what to do.
Greenberg consulted with his moronic Reform rabbi, who ignorantly said that playing would be acceptable on that holy day. As a result, he played and hit two home runs, winning the game for the Tigers, with the second one in the ninth inning. Yet Greenberg thereafter recalled contemporaneously,
I caught hell from my fellow parishioners, I caught hell from some rabbis, and I don’t know what to do. It’s 10 days until the next holiday — Yom Kippur.
He decided correctly that his Reform rabbi was an idiot, and he took upon himself, despite being non-religious, to sit out Yom Kippur. In the words of Hank’s father, “Yom Kippur was different. I put my foot down, and Henry obeyed.” Father and son attended Kol Nidre services together. When Greenberg entered the Detroit temple on the Holy Day, the congregation stood and applauded him. In Edgar Guest’s famous poem published on the front page of the Detroit Free News,
The Irish didn’t like it when they heard of Greenberg’s fame
For they thought a good first baseman should possess an Irish name;
And the Murphys and Mulrooneys said they never dreamed they’d see
A Jewish boy from Bronxville out where Casey used to be.
In the early days of April not a Dugan tipped his hat
Or prayed to see a “double” when Hank Greenberg came to bat.
In July the Irish wondered where he’d ever to play.
“He makes me think of Casey!” Old Man Murphy dared to say.
And with fifty-seven doubles and a score of homers made
The respect they had for Greenberg was being openly displayed.
But on the Jewish New Year when Hank Greenberg came to bat
And made two home runs off pitcher Rhodes — they cheered like mad for that.
Came Yom Kippur — holy fast day worldwide-over to the Jew —
And Hank Greenberg to his teaching and the old tradition true
Spent the day among his people and he didn’t come to play.
Said Murphy to Mulrooney, “We shall lose the game today!
We shall miss him on the infield and shall miss him at the bat
But he’s true to his religion — and I honor him for that!”
That is a hero. Through four years he did not evade the service, and on Yom Kippur he did not evade the services. (In contrast, contemporary zhlubs like Alex Bregman of the Astros, Max Fried of the Atlanta Braves, and Joc Pederson of the Los Angeles Dodgers, shamelessly played post-season games — and lost — this past Yom Kippur. In the post-Greenberg/Koufax era of America, there are no Jewish heroes in baseball.)
5. LeBron James: A Gutless Coward Who, When Given a Chance for Greatness, Could Do No More Than Shut Up and Dribble
All this brings us back to LeBron James. He is such a “hero” that Nike, the sponsors of Colin Kaepernick and other dregs who dwell beneath society’s bottom feeders, manufactures an athletic shoe called “LeBron 11 Elite Hero.” In an article in Salon, titled “LeBron James Is a Hero,” he was idolized for playing well in the dwindling minutes of an Olympics basketball game. USA Today calls him a “Cleveland hero.” The NBA website calls him a “hero.” And yet I call this “hero” a gutless coward.
Why? Because he has a world stage, and this dribbler has used that platform to speak on easy political matters that he does not necessarily understand but that resonate simplistically with his sycophants and acolytes, like when he endorsed “President Hillary Clinton” at a Cleveland rally the night before she lost Ohio to Donald Trump. And then he had a chance on the world stage, as the NBA recently engaged communist China, to speak out on human rights abuses, persecutions, and political murders in China. Human rights abuses in China go far beyond freedom issues in Hong Kong. For example, thousands of Muslim religious sites have been destroyed, over a million Uighurs have been confined, and others are forced to violate or abandon their faiths.
After Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey bravely tweeted his support for the pro-democracy rights movement in Hong Kong, the NBA’s big money sponsor, Nike, rushed to crush basketball voices for freedom in China. It was a moment in history, like the Soviet Jewry Freedom moment of the 1970s, when we needed just one or two powerful celebrity voices to join our call. And at the moment in history when he unexpectedly held center stage — or center court — this was LeBron James’s statement to reporters, commenting on Morey’s heroic tweet:
I just think that when you’re misinformed or you’re not educated about something — and I’m just talking about the tweet itself — you never know the ramifications that can happen. We all see what that [tweet] did — not only for our league but for all of us in America, for people in China as well.
The gutless coward chickened out and silenced the pro-freedom movement. As reported on CNN,
Speaking to reporters before a game in Los Angeles Monday, James called it “a very delicate situation, a very sensitive situation.”
When asked whether Morey should be reprimanded for his tweet, James responded, “I think when we all sit back and learn from the situation that happened, understand that what you could tweet or could say, and we all talk about this freedom of speech — yes, we do all have freedom of speech, but at times there are ramifications for the negative that can happen when you’re not thinking about others and you’re only thinking about yourself.
“I don’t want to get into a word or sentence feud with Daryl Morey, but I believe he wasn’t educated on the situation at hand and he spoke. So many people could have been harmed, not just financially but physically, emotionally, spiritually. So just be careful what we tweet and what we say and what we do, even though yes, we do have freedom of speech, but there can be a lot of negative that comes with that too.”
I will always remember Hank Greenberg, who was active before my time, as a hero — not for the home runs he hit but for those he never got to hit because he was a patriot who volunteered and reenlisted to fight for our country and freedom, and I further always will honor him for the game he missed to respect his religion — honoring both his Father and his father — even though he personally was not observant. And I always will despise LeBron James as a gutless coward, a worm, because, for all his posturing over domestic political matters, he had one opportunity in his lifetime to make a difference for the freedom for millions — and he made the cowardly choice to wallow in his Nike millions instead of speaking for the human millions because, despite his $300 million–plus endorsement deal, he did not have enough cash already.
He may be a “hero” in a world where Susan Rice could describe Bowe Bergdahl as having “served the United States with honor and distinction.” But for those who can tell the difference between a great man and a worm, LeBron James always will stand out as a dribbling gutless coward.