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Civil servant Kyrie Irving probably shouldn’t Google ‘Nets owner-China ties’

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Nets owner Joe Tsai has some problems.

Nets owner Joe Tsai has some problems.
Image: Getty Images

Two of the people not quoted in ESPN’s nearly flawless piece about Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai’s problematic ties to China — including a business under the umbrella of his company developing facial recognition software that may or may not have been equipped with an “Uyghur alarm” to alert police of a person that the Chinese government has been putting in borderline concentration camps — were Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant.

I call Marc Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru’s article, which came out Thursday, nearly perfect because how can you read it and not think about what Brooklyn’s two biggest stars would say about it. Neither shies away from a question or speaking his mind, and both have endorsements deals from Nike, which has a shady history of dealings in the country that makes up 19 percent of its revenue.

Irving even considered boycotting Nets exhibition games in China in 2019 over the heated political climate and Hong Kong’s free speech issues. His owner has a quote in the ESPN story saying, “In the American context, we talk about freedom of speech, freedom of press, but in the China context, being able to restrict some of those freedoms is an important element to keep the stability.”

The entire article paints Tsai, who is the No. 2 at China’s more or less state-run “Amazon on steroids” Alibaba, as a mouthpiece for the Chinese government. The most damning companies under Alibaba that I alluded to above are Megvii and Sensetime, and both have been blacklisted in the U.S. over their business practices, making it illegal for Americans to invest in them, but its parent company hasn’t divested interest in either. (Alibaba did make sure not to hold board seats on the businesses if that’s any consolation.) The NBA has a deal to sell licensed apparel on Alibaba because of course they do.

Anytime a piece is written about the NBA’s biggest international business partner, there’s a lot of puckering over at the league office, and, shockingly, Adam Silver, Daryl Morey, and Tsai all declined comment for the story. (Durant and Irving weren’t even mentioned in the story, which, to be fair, wasn’t about them. Gotta maintain those player relationships.)

If you’re wondering why Morey’s name was mentioned, it’s because he authored the pro Hong Kong tweet that almost got him fired. Tsai allegedly pushed for Morey’s ouster as a peace offering to China behind the scenes at the NBA. He denies it, but he also contributed to the false narrative that the protesters were violent and essentially attempted their own Jan. 6 insurrection, even posting an open letter to NBA fans on Facebook saying Morey supported a separatist movement, so we know where he stands.

I want to hear where Durant stands on his boss solely because he’s honest and thoughtful, but I really want to hear how Irving — who stands for “four things, man: inner peace, freedom, equality and world peace” — justifies why he sat out for months over a vaccine but hasn’t said shit about the Nets being the NBA team most visibly connected to China.

The guy uses a walking stick, dresses up as an old man, and burns sage before games. He’s the player most likely to walk away from basketball on some Ricky Williams, “I’m too crunchy for this” shit. If ever there was a moment to cape for one of your core principals, it’s right after a scathing article exposes your employer and right before the other employer starts the playoffs.

The devil on his shoulder told him to stand with the anti-vaxx crowd, and the angel on the other side is taking dirty money from Tsai and Nike shoe deals. It’s easy to puncture holes in Irving’s stances, and the explanation he gave for empathizing, but not standing, with the protesters who showed up at the Barclays Center in 2019 to protest the Nets owner makes it even easier.

“I understand that Hong Kong and China is dealing with their issues, respectively,” Irving said (per ESPN). “But there is enough oppression and stuff going on in America for me not to be involved in the community issues here as well.”

He had a closed-door meeting with Silver about China after the protests occurred but didn’t elaborate on what was said, telling reporters he “left it in that room.”

I get not having enough outrage to throw at every injustice. If you wake up each day and worry about all the pain and suffering endured on this planet you need to get off Twitter, but also, how do you function? Do you walk around mad all day? And who are you more mad at: The people perpetrating the bad things, or the people who don’t seem to care about them? The life of an advocate is really hard, which is why it’s literally a profession. (And also why Enes Freedom should take a long look at if the way he’s going about his career change is even helpful.)

The thing about Irving is he fancies himself as a “voice for the voiceless.” The sort of person who is moved enough by issues to sit out the majority of a season over a mandate. Perhaps he’s swayed by all the good Tsai does in the community, which I should mention because the Nets owner has contributed millions to combat racism aimed at Black and Asian people in America.

That philanthropy could be enough for Irving to trust that his boss really is acting in the best interests of the Chinese population — which, if you listen to Tsai spin it, 80 to 90 percent of them “are very, very happy for the fact that their lives are improving every year.” Houston Texans owner Cal McNair recently tried to use charitable donations to HBCUs to improve his team’s image, and logical people don’t fall for that.

For Tsai, glossing over the other 10 to 20 percent, the Uyghur Muslims currently experiencing “cultural genocide” and the people in Hong Kong who want the democracy they were promised, is as easy as Irving looking the other way when the paychecks and league “Don’t talk about China” proclamations roll in.



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Chelsea FC: Brilliant Badiashile leading way for new signings as Thiago Silva partnership blossoms

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C

helsea have not conceded a goal in the first 270 minutes that Benoit Badiashile has been on the pitch since his £35million move from Monaco.

His promising early form at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea will hope, hint at better times to come through their new signings.

The arrival of French centre-back Badiashile at the start of last month kick-started a record January spending spree of more than £300m.

After Chelsea were sent spiralling into crisis with defeats by Manchester City and Fulham, Badiashile made his debut in a 1-0 win over Crystal Palace.

After the Blues claimed a further two clean sheets in 0-0 draws away at Liverpool and at home to Fulham, he is building an impressive partnership with Thiago Silva.

Impressive start: Benoit Badiashile has formed a promising partnership with Thiago Silva

/ Getty Images

Badiashile was one of five new signings to feature in Friday’s 0-0 draw with Fulham. He started alongside £106.8m Enzo Fernandez, who started well but faded over 90 minutes, £89.5m Mykhailo Mudryk, who struggled over 45 minutes while carrying a cold, and £30m Noni Madueke, who was bright after being brought on at half-time.

“What a waste of money” was the regular chant from the Fulham fans in the away end.

That felt harsh in Badiashile’s case. With his size and speed, he looks like a perfect partner for 38-year-old veteran Silva.

In addition, he showed the ability to play brilliantly out of Fulham’s well-drilled press and he coped in his duels against Aleksandar Mitrovic.

There is still adaption to be done, as Graham Potter barked instructions about his positioning in relation to Silva.

However, using French to communicate with the former Paris Saint-Germain captain, Badiashile has helped steady the ship in the absence of the injured Wesley Fofana, and with Kalidou Koulibaly out of form.

While still only averaging just 1.05 goals per game in the Premier League, Chelsea will draw more than they win unless their new midfielders and forwards step up.

Arriving in the weeks after Badiashile, the likes of Fernandez, Joao Felix, Mudryk and Madueke have not had as much time to adapt to their surroundings.

With Chelsea still in 10th place and increasingly falling behind in the race to qualify for Europe, they must follow Badiashile’s lead and hit the ground running before time runs out.



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Reporter’s notebook: Jesse Marsch’s Leeds side showed encouraging signs at times but lack of points cost him his job | Football News

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Jesse Marsch was approaching his one-year anniversary as Leeds United head coach before the decision was taken on Monday to relieve him of his duties.

The defeat to Nottingham Forest a day earlier had been the final straw for the Leeds board, who were all aligned in the view that a change was necessary after almost three months without a Premier League win.

The recent statistics paint a grim picture for Leeds. Seven Premier League games without a win and just two wins in the last 17 league games. And against Forest, although they dominated in the first half and created the better chances, a worrying pattern had started to develop which had become a huge concern for fans. Leeds were producing performances with lots of positives, but not enough points.

There is little doubt that a large proportion of the fan base had lost patience with Marsch, and they made their frustrations clear at the full-time whistle on Sunday with calls for a change of head coach.

What is very evident is that Leeds have not kicked on this season. At times there have been really promising signs, but the fans and the board at Leeds wanted more. Marsch will feel that with time he could have delivered more, but he was also realistic enough to know that he was walking a tightrope.

I got to know Jesse well during his 12 months at Elland Road and it was abundantly clear he cared passionately about the club. He understood what it meant to be head coach of Leeds United and what the club meant to the city and the fans. And he has to be given great credit for keeping Leeds in the Premier League last season.

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Leeds.

Although it hasn’t worked out for Marsch this season, there is a strong argument to suggest that the next Leeds boss will be in a great position to move the club forward.

Patrick Bamford and Luis Sinisterra are now fit, and the January additions should make the starting line-up stronger. The club has also invested heavily in young players and one of those, Willy Gnonto, has emerged as one of the shining lights of the season.

Those factors have created an expectation that Leeds are better than their current league position, and that means a reluctance to accept another season fighting to avoid the drop. It also means that there are reasons to be optimistic about the future.

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Former Leeds United goalkeeper Paul Robinson believes sacking Jesse Marsch was the right decision as he was given enough time at the club.

The process of finding a replacement for Marsch is already underway and Leeds hope to make a swift appointment. A move for Marcelo Bielsa is highly unlikely, but West Brom boss Carlos Corberan, who worked under Bielsa, is a candidate, while Ange Postecoglou at Celtic has also been linked.

It is also worth noting Leeds have a track record of leftfield appointments, so as they work through their list of targets, there is a good chance that a candidate emerges that could surprise everybody.

In the meantime, Michael Skubala, Paco Gallardo and Chris Armas will take training at Thorp Arch, and will be in the dugout for Wednesday’s Premier League fixture against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

Leeds’ next Premier League fixtures

February 8: Manchester United (A) – kick-off 8pm

February 12: Manchester United (H) – kick-off 2pm, live on Sky Sports

February 18: Everton (A) – kick-off 3pm

February 25: Southampton (H) – kick-off 3pm

March 4: Chelsea (A) – kick-off 3pm

March 11: Brighton (H) – kick-off 3pm

March 18: Wolves (A) – kick-off 3pm



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Tom Brady in his underwear is taking over Twitter

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Um .. oh.

Um .. oh.
Screenshot: Twitter: Tom Brady

It’s Super Bowl week, and if you thought Tom Brady was going to let this week go by without being all up in your timeline…well. Just a week after announcing he’s retiring from football (you’ll never convince me he didn’t play an extra year just to stick it to Adam Schefter), Tom Brady has dropped his first thirst trap on Twitter. Or, attempted thirst trap. Actually, IS this a thirst trap?

As will many things Tom Brady, the attempt to be cool and edgy just winds up being sterile, boring, and kinda sad. A beige man in a beige room in beige underwear with a “pleass clap” look on his face.

And because OF COURSE:

Yes, Tom. We all knew the plug as coming. I’m not sure what color “heather crimson” is supposed to be, but I believe this is what we used to call “puce,” which… meh. The fact that there is something called the “Brady Boxer Brief” is enough to make me want to stick my head in the oven, because you know there are guys in New England burning up the internet right now to wear the same undies as their hero. And even more so because no amount of refusing to mask during COVID, vouching for Antonio Brown, stumping for Donald Trump, or getting a PPP loan during a nationwide pandemic is enough to get people to stop buying what this guy is selling. He’s even gotten to Jane Fonda, for crying out loud.

Of course, this entire thing was set up by Brady’s own brand:

So…whatever. It’s Super Bowl week and everyone is talking about Tom Brady, which is exactly how he wants it to be.



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