Blackburn wrote that the NBA has “created an appearance” the league is focused more on making money than in principles, according to Sports Illustrated.
“While the NBA has worked hard to raise awareness of social issues at home, there is concern that the league has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses committed abroad — even bowing down to pressure last year,” Blackburn wrote. “The actions of the NBA and some players have created an appearance that your league prioritizes profit over principle.”
She gave the NBA until July 21 to answer three questions:
“1) What are the anticipated financial consequences of China Central Television’s (CCTV) continued ban on airing NBA games?
“2) Please outline the scope of the NBA’s relationship with Chinese state-owned enterprise Alibaba.
“3) The NBA reportedly continues to operate a training center Xinjiang, one of the world’s worst humanitarian zones. What steps is the NBA taking to shutter this location?”
Blackburn’s letter comes months after Houston Rockets owner Daryl Morey tweeted pro-Hong Kong rhetoric before the league’s China series between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets was about to start. The league felt the immediate backlash.
Morey issued subsequent tweets to try and stop the bleeding while Rockets star James Harden apologized for the tweet. But to no avail.
China began to crack down on the NBA almost immediately as Chinese sportswear brands either suspended or severed ties with the Rockets. The Communist government also blacked out broadcasts of the league’s preseason games in the country and canceled NBA Cares events and media availabilities ahead of the exhibition games between the Lakers and Nets.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver stood in support of Morey’s right to free speech but said he regretted the outcome. Players remained silent while on mainland China, as did the league’s most vocal critics of President Trump, his administration and societal issues, opting to either “learn more” about the situation — or take more shots at the White House.
Vice President Mike Pence blasted the NBA at the time for acting like a “wholly-owned subsidiary” of China.
“Some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of other peoples,” Pence said. “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly-owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.”
Silver has said the league stood to lose hundreds of millions from the tweet fallout.