Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley is not happy with the National Basketball Association.
In a letter to the league’s commissioner and team owners Monday, the Republican tore into the association for condemning tweets Houston Rockets official Daryl Morey posted late last week in support of pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, casting the decision as a shameful submission to Chinese authoritarianism.
Morey, the Rockets’ general manager, sparked a firestorm in one of the NBA’s most coveted overseas markets Friday when he tweeted a since-deleted image that included a slogan of the protests, “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
Multiple Chinese businesses, including the Chinese Basketball Association and Tencent Sports, which is the NBA’s exclusive digital partner in China, suspended business relations with the Rockets, according to Reuters and China Global Television Network.
Morey’s boss, team owner Tilman Fertitta, tweeted later Friday that Morey “does NOT speak for” the franchise, which Fertitta said is “NOT a political organization.”
And on Sunday, after Morey deleted his original tweet and posted an apology, an NBA spokesman released a statement further apologizing to China and its fans.
“We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable,” the statement read. “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
Hawley, for his part, saw only betrayal. In his letter, he highlighted how thousands of protestors have been arrested or hospitalized since demonstrations began and listed various violent means, including live ammunition, Hong Kong police have employed to break them.
“The League said yesterday that Morey’s comments “deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable,” Hawley wrote. “What is regrettable is the suppression and political violence carried out by the Chinese Communist Party against the good people of Hong Kong. And as the people of Hong Kong risk their lives for freedom, the NBA offers apologies to the Chinese regime.
“That was wrong. Reconsider.”
He further called for the NBA to cancel all exhibition games in China until the Hong Kong protests are peacefully resolved.
He wasn’t alone in condemning the NBA’s response Monday.
Fellow Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, a Houston resident and Rockets fan himself, tweeted that he had been proud to see Morey “call out the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive treatment of protestors in Hong Kong” and was disappointed by the NBA’s response.
“We’re better than this,” he continued “human rights shouldn’t be for sale and the NBA shouldn’t be assisting Chinese communist censorship.”
Democrats also spoke out, including two presidential candidates from Texas.
“The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights,” Beto O’Rourke wrote on Twitter. “What an embarrassment.”
And after citing an article in The Ringer suggesting the Rockets could fire Morey to appease China, Julián Castro tweeted, “The United States must lead with our values and speak out for pro-democracy protestors in Hong Kong, and not allow American citizens to be bullied by an authoritarian government.”
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