Former President Barack Obama is joining the NBA Africa, a division of the league on the continent, to promote the NBA’s “social responsibility efforts.”
Obama will help the league develop and push such efforts as “greater gender equality and economic inclusion,” according to an NBA press release. Obama will also get a minority equity stake in NBA Africa that will be used to support his charity, the Obama Foundation, and other causes.
Obama and NBA executives praised the partnership and touted the NBA as an avenue to spread American ideals across the globe.
“The NBA has always been a great ambassador for the United States — using the game to create deeper connections around the world, and in Africa, basketball has the power to promote opportunity, wellness, equality, and empowerment across the continent,” Obama said in a statement. “By investing in communities, promoting gender equality, and cultivating the love of the game of basketball, I believe that NBA Africa can make a difference for so many of Africa’s young people.”
“I’ve been impressed by the league’s commitment to Africa, including the leadership shown by so many African players who want to give back to their own countries and communities,” he continued. “That’s why I’m proud to join the team at NBA Africa and look forward to a partnership that benefits the youth of so many countries.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver added: “We are honored that President Obama has become a strategic partner in NBA Africa and will support our wide-ranging efforts to grow the game of basketball on the continent. In addition to his well-documented love for basketball, President Obama has a firm belief in Africa’s potential and the enormous growth opportunities that exist through sports. NBA Africa will benefit tremendously from his engagement.”
The NBA’s efforts to spread “social responsibility” causes in Africa comes after the league balked at a number of opportunities to push back against the Chines Communist Party’s efforts to censor its own people as well as numerous companies that do business in the country in the past. Silver has downplayed China’s numerous human rights abuses, such as rampant oppression of Uyghurs in China’s Xinxiang province.
Silver said that China has “a different view … how things should be done” when asked about the NBA’s relationship with the Communist regime during an interview with Time Magazine last year. The NBA’s relationship with China was thrown into the spotlight in 2019 after then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, sparking a backlash against the league from China.
In an effort to repair its relationship with China, the league put out a statement expressing regret that Morey’s statement “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China.” Facing accusations of capitulating to the Communist regime, Silver claimed that the NBA never apologized for Morey’s pro-democracy stance but backed off any hard criticism of China’s human rights abuses.