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Many NBA players and coaches in recent years have shared their personal thoughts on political and sometimes controversial topics. Two of the league’s most successful coaches, for example, Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs and Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors, have talked and tweeted about gun violence and their thoughts on the president. But a tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has caused a lot of problems for the league. It’s also done something that’s been rare lately: united several Republican and Democratic Senators.
The problem started when Morey said he stood with Hong Kong regarding the months-long protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. It caused a lot of problems because the NBA is hugely popular in China, and the tweet caused the Chinese Basketball Association to suspend its relationship with the team.
The NBA, seemingly worried about losing its millions of Chinese fans — and the revenue generated by the sport’s popularity there — apologized. It said the now-deleted tweet was “regrettable,” and Morey deleted the tweet and apologized, saying, “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.”
Several U.S. politicians from both sides of the aisle have said the NBA should not be apologizing to China.
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska, released a statement calling the NBA’s apology to the Chinese Communist Party shameful, adding, “Basketball fans and the American people more broadly should have absolutely no doubt about what is happening here: The NBA wants money, and the Communist Party of China is asking them to deny the most basic of human rights. In response, the NBA issued a statement saying money is the most important thing.”
Chuck Schumer, a Democratic Senator from New York, said, “No one should implement a gag rule on Americans speaking out for freedom. I stand with the people of Hong Kong in their pursuit of democratic rights.”
Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said on Twitter, “We’re better than this; human rights shouldn’t be for sale & the NBA shouldn’t be assisting Chinese communist censorship.”
Julián Castro, the Democratic Mayor of San Antonio who is running for president, said, “China is using its economic power to silence critics—even those in the U.S.”
Senator Tom Cotton, a Republican from Arkansas, said, “The NBA is wrong: we ought to support brave Hong Kongers struggling for freedom, not their Chinese communist oppressors.”
And Marco Rubio, a Republican Senator for Florida, said, “I thought the @NBA was proud to be the “wokest professional sports league”? I guess that only applies to speaking out on American politics & social issues.”
Stay tuned to see how the NBA handles this situation in the coming days.