Hawley expressed concern that the NBA is allowing players to wear preapproved social justice cause messages on their jerseys for causes such as Black Lives Matter but does not allow for messages relating to China or supporting law enforcement. He called a Senate Judiciary committee subpoena of Silver “a great idea.”
“If the NBA’s going to put these social justice statements on the back of uniforms, which is what they’re doing now, why is it that there’s nothing on there about, like, free Hong Kong or the Uyghurs or anything that has to do with the billions of dollars the NBA makes in China?” Hawley said in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt.
Hawley also fired back at ESPN for suspending reporter Adrian Wojnarowski after he responded to an email from Hawley’s press office with an expletive. Hawley said Wojnarowski’s suspension was a distraction and he should be reinstated. “They don’t want to address the core issue, which is the NBA’s relationship with China. ESPN has a slice of that pie,” the senator said.
Hawley had written a letter to Silver criticizing the league’s decision to limit messages players can wear on their uniforms to “pre-approved, social justice slogans” while “censoring support” for law enforcement and criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.
Hawley wrote in the letter to Silver that the league’s “free expression appears to stop at the edge of your corporate sponsors’ sensibilities.”
Wojnarowski responded to Hawley in an email saying, “F— you.” Wojnarowski has apologized for the email he sent to Hawley, saying his actions were unacceptable.
Hawley said the NBA makes over $10 billion in revenue each year and 10 to 20 percent of that is made in China. He called on the NBA to publicly disclose its financial dealings with China. “So this is big time money for the NBA, and I think we do deserve to know exactly what they’re making. And we deserve to have them explain to us why they won’t stand up to this authoritarian regime,” Hawley said.
Hawley pointed to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who appeared to show support in October for anti-government protesters in a since-deleted tweet: “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” Soon after China’s state-run TV CCTV banned the airing of any NBA games.
Morey later tweeted: “I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China. I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.”
Hawley said of Morey: “He got censored. The league came down hard on him.”