That will likely be the best result, rather than seeing the Missouri Senator’s missive produce any meaningful change in how the league manages itself.
Hawley called out Silver and the NBA over its decision to permit its players – more than 80 percent of whom are black – to replace the names on the backs of their jerseys with messaging that for the most part fits the term “social justice.” That is, players can opine just as long as they don’t advocate for the welfare of police officers. Or for victims of Chinese oppression.
The NBA limited the messages players could display to a handful. Needless to say, none expressed support for anything other than racial atonement causes, following the recent months of demonstrations and riots after George Floyd and other blacks died at the hands of police during confrontations.
Hawley reminded Silver there are far more injustices in the world than America’s past transgressions with slavery and its current fringy flare-ups of racism. For instance, communist China – with whom the NBA has sought to build a close relationship to expand its fan base and revenue opportunities – represses the Muslim Uighers and other minorities using tactics including forced abortions and sterilizations, and employing mass detention as a threat and a punishment.
Associated Press reported: “While individual women have spoken out before about forced birth control, the practice is far more widespread and systematic than previously known, according to an AP investigation based on government statistics, state documents and interviews with 30 ex-detainees, family members and a former detention camp instructor. The campaign over the past four years in the far west region of Xinjiang is leading to what some experts are calling a form of ‘demographic genocide.’”
And China just shut down pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong, establishing autocratic rule over the former autonomous, capitalist territory with a new “national security law” that inhibits free expression and puts stricter controls over Internet use, among other dictatorial rules.
So why does the NBA obsess over alleged “systemic racism” in the United States, but turns a blind eye to proven “systematic oppression” in China?
“The league’s new policy suggests a newfound commitment to enhanced employee expression,” Hawley wrote to Silver. “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.
“The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor – much like the censorship decisions of the [Communist Chinese Party] – are themselves statements about your association’s values. 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. Let your players stand up for the Uighurs and the people of Hong Kong. Let them stand up for American law enforcement if they so choose. Give them the choice to write ‘Back the Blue’ on their jerseys. Or ‘Support our Troops.’ Maybe ‘God Bless America.’ What could be more American than that?”
Silver is in the midst of repairing the league’s relationship with the ChiComs after Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters last fall. The Chinese government instantly rebuked the team, discontinued its sponsorships, and removed the Rockets from all broadcasts in the country. Rather than stand up for Morey’s freedom of speech, both the team owner and the NBA distanced themselves from the tweet, which Morey deleted.
Earlier this year National Legal and Policy Center asked the NBA to support the Hong Kong protesters, calling the league’s neutrality on the issue “morally untenable.”
Hawley confronted Silver and NBA owners over that shameful incident also, in an October 7th letter.
“I write today to express my disgust about the position of the National Basketball Association with respect to Hong Kong and the freedom of the Chinese people,” he wrote at the time. “Doing business in China is one thing, but for the NBA to kowtow to the demands of one of the world’s most brutal regimes in the pursuit of profit is, frankly, revolting. You know better. And the people of this country deserve better.”
Hawley’s letter, and related press release, elicited an emailed response from the top NBA inside-information reporter, Adrian Wojnarowski of Disney-owned ESPN. His reply: “F*** you,” without the asterisks. Hawley tweeted it out with the comment, “Don’t criticize #China or express support for law enforcement to @espn. It makes them real mad.”
Wojnarowski has ingratiated himself throughout the league to the point where he gets the majority of scoops about trades, contract signings, and other NBA news. So his point of view is indicative of the league in general. Nonetheless ESPN has rebuked Wojnarowski and reportedly suspended him without pay. Wojnarowski apologized to Hawley.
But his suspension probably won’t last long, as many players are coming to his defense in a “#FreeWoj” Twitter campaign. And highly respected Los Angeles Clippers coach Doc Rivers also responded to Hawley with criticism:
There’s no league that does more for the military than the NBA. But how about that, Senator? I’ll make a challenge: We will do things for the troops as long as he acknowledges #BlackLivesMatter. I think that would be really cool for him to do.
You know, it’s funny, whenever we talk about justice, people try to change the message. Colin Kaepernick kneels…. It had to do with social injustice, and everyone tried to change the narrative. How about staying on what we are talking about and dealing with that instead of trying to trick us or change or trick your constituents? How about being real?
I guarantee you we’ve done more for the military than probably that Senator. And I guarantee you this: We also are going to do things for #BlackLivesMatter. How about him? Maybe he should join into that.
Sure, the NBA and all professional sports leagues recognize and honor American service members – that’s not exactly divisive in our country. But the league has thrown its considerable weight entirely behind the controversial, militant movement that is Black Lives Matter, which advocates a Marxist ideology, and has a distinct anti-law-enforcement streak at a time when police officers are under siege. The NBA is even painting the slogan on all its basketball courts for the upcoming shortened season in Orlando.
Meanwhile, besides its human rights abuses, China is the very nation that unleashed the COVID virus and covered it up, causing a global pandemic and economic crisis – wrecking the seasons of all sports leagues. But to say anything about the evils of that regime is taboo for the NBA.
“Normal Americans get it, but the media and the corporate class want to look the other way,” Hawley told Jason Whitlock of Outkick.com. “Normal, working Americans have understood at a gut level for years the threat from China, including the threat to our jobs. It’s the political establishment and the corporate class that kowtow to China.”