Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., on Wednesday pushed for NBA commissioner Adam Silver to testify before Congress after the league replied to a letter he’d sent earlier this month regarding the protection of players who publicly criticize Communist China.
In the letter to Silver, Hawley asked why the league was allowing players to wear certain political messages on their jerseys while disallowing anything critical of the CCP.
“Conspicuously missing from the list of approved phrases are any in support of the victims of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), including the people of Hong Kong, whose remaining freedoms are being extinguished by the CCP’s newly-enacted national security law,” he wrote. “Given the NBA’s troubled history of excusing and apologizing for the brutal repression of the Chinese Communist regime, these omissions are striking. Last October, you no doubt recall, you chose to apologize to the CCP after Daryl Morey, General Manager of the Houston Rockets, spoke up on behalf of the Hong Kong protestors.
“Following that shameful display, I encouraged you to reverse course,” Hawley continued. “Instead, you have spent the intervening months deepening the NBA’s ties to the CCP.”
He added: “The league’s new policy suggests a newfound commitment to enhanced employee expression. But that free expression appears to stop at the edge of your corporate sponsors’ sensibilities. And for woke capital today, profits from the Chinese market are more popular than patriotism… If I am right – if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than to celebrating its home nation – your fans deserve to know that is your view. If not, prove me wrong.”
Hawley urged the league to step forward in support of Hong Kong and law enforcement and also asked that phrases such as “Back the Blue,” “Support our Troops” and “God Bless America” be included for players to choose from.
He also said the NBA’s refusal to address such matters “speaks volumes” about their actions and posed several questions for the league, which he expected to be answered by July 29.
Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum complied with Hawley’s timetable, but “would not commit to protecting employees or players who publicly criticize the Chinese Communist Party,” according to the senator.
“@NBA finally replies to me. Won’t criticize #China and won’t commit to protecting employees who criticize #China. Says it’s all “hypothetical.” Uh, remember Daryl Morey?” the Missouri Republican tweeted.
In their response, the league said only certain “social justice messages” are acceptable for players’ jerseys. They also claimed the idea that any player would speak out against China is a “hypothetical” scenario and therefore cannot be fully addressed.
“The whole letter is a joke,” Hawley added. “Reads like lawyers in Beijing drafted it. Maybe it’s time to hear directly from Adam Silver. On Capitol Hill. Under oath.”
Hawley ended the thread with a link to an ESPN article about the NBA’s China academies — a youth development program — which labeled the operation as “abusive” and included quotes from sources who claimed American coaches “were frequently harassed and surveilled in Xinjiang.”
One American coach was reportedly detained three times without proper cause, causing a former league employee to compare the atmosphere in Xinjiang to “World War II Germany.”
Tatum assured ESPN the NBA is “reevaluating” and “considering other opportunities” for the academy program, which is operated out of sports facilities run by the Communist government. Last week, the league acknowledged for the first time that it had closed the Xinjiang academy, but Tatum refused to say if it was connected to human rights abuses, ESPN reported. “We were somewhat humbled,” he said.
Hawley suggested this be one of the main topics discussed if Silver testifies before Congress.