NBA Commissioner Adam Silver delivered a lengthy response to a question from ESPN host Pat McAfee about his participation in international relations, including rival countries like China, and invoked former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Silver initially touted the sport of basketball’s reach on a global scale as it has become one of the most popular sports in China and has an increasingly growing interest there. McAfee asked Silver whether he felt obligated to be a part of international relations after mentioning a “country we’re not the tightest with right now.”
“I get pulled in, though not always in a positive way. I will say, I was reading a lot of those obituaries around Henry Kissinger’s death at 100 where was sort of an exemplar of a great global diplomat,” Silver said. “I wanna say, I understand. This is going too far off field maybe from your question — I, of course, believe we have to have a strong military. I’m a big believer. At the same time — call it soft power or call it diplomacy — I think through sport, through culture and through arts, it brings connectivity with people of diverse cultures and backgrounds. Basketball is one of those sports.”
Silver then went on to talk about basketball’s influence around the world and what values it teaches before making a point about the importance of children being active when it comes to fighting off obesity and diabetes.
“I’m a sports executive not a diplomat, but I think the things that we do around the world by participating in these national games, Olympic games, by taking our games globally, by bringing international players to the United States, by showcasing the very best, by people seeing our values of this game around the world, these principles, I call it like, ‘the rule of law,’ it’s interesting the World Cup of soccer was in Qatar — 200 countries participating — everyone accepted those were the rules. Whatever was going on in those countries, whatever autocrat or dictator, whoever was running those countries, everyone accepted for on that pitch on that soccer field when the ref made the decision, they may have disagreed with it, but those are the rules, and a winner’s declared at the end of the tournament.
“Sports teaches those values. And just lastly, this is an issue for the United States, but really for the whole world. Even though we’re seeing more prosperity in many places, you continue to see issues around childhood obesity, diabetes, and in many cases it’s because kids aren’t active. That’s a whole separate issue that you need fun, engaging platforms like sports just to keep kids running and engaged and wanting to be outside and wanting to do things with physical coordination. That all becomes very important. I think sports is very unique from that standpoint.”
Kissinger died last week at the age of 100. The German-born American diplomat, academic and presidential adviser who served as secretary of state for two presidents and left his stamp on U.S. foreign policy for decades pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, began a rapprochement with China and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating the Paris Peace Accords to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
He also played a leading role in the normalization of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China under Presidents Nixon and Ford.
While some praised Kissinger for his accomplishments, other media outlets labeled Kissinger as a “war criminal.”