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NBA reportedly to return to Abu Dhabi for preseason game with Doncic, Mavericks

2022-23 NBA Abu Dhabi Games - Milwaukee Bucks v Atlanta Hawks

ABU DHABI, UAE - OCTOBER 6: Brook Lopez #11 of the Milwaukee Bucks and Clint Capela #15 of the Atlanta Hawks go up for the opening tip off as part of 2022 NBA Abu Dhabi Games at Etihad Arena on October 6, 2022 in Abu Dhabi, The United Arab Emirates. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Catherine Steenkeste/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

It’s all about the money. Always.

There’s a lot of money in the Middle East — and significant national investment funds that buy into sports teams — and not so coincidentally, the NBA is planning a return trip there next preseason with a game again in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), reports Marc Stein in his latest newsletter.

After the NBA staged its first exhibition games in the region in October, with Milwaukee and Atlanta squaring off twice in the United Arab Emirates, league sources say there are plans for the Luka Dončić-led Dallas Mavericks to play a preseason game next season in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi...

Sources tell me that USA Basketball, furthermore, is in the process of arranging a preparatory stay in Abu Dhabi in August before it proceeds to the 2023 FIBA World Cup, which will be staged from Aug. 25-Sept. 10, 2023, in Indonesia, Japan and The Philippines.

Let’s be clear: This clashes with the league’s stated values. The UAE has criminalized homosexuality. If you remember, the NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Weekend out of Charlotte partly because of the anti-LBGT “bathroom law” passed in the state, plus LBGT employees within the league didn’t feel comfortable attending given the new law in North Carolina. More than this one area,
the UAE is a nation with serious and considerable human rights questions and violations (as reported by the US State Department, among others).

“It’s a fair question,” Silver said last April when confronted with the question of the NBA playing in nations with these records and laws. “We continue to believe that using sports, using basketball, we can improve people’s lives through sport and that, as Nelson Mandela famously said, sport can change the world.

“Part of why we choose certain markets is of course economics — there’s no question about that. It’s enormously expensive and resource-driven to bring teams around the world. We also want to try bringing our games to places we haven’t been before and the Middle East is one of those markets. We look at many different factors in terms of how we travel. … But our ultimate goal is to bring our games to everywhere around the world.”

Put another way, it’s about the money. That’s not to say the NBA has gone full FIFA yet, but the league should have to discuss the motives and what it hopes to gain from these trips.