The NBA’s China controversy isn’t going away — even with the league finishing its trip in the communist country in silence — and politicians aren’t letting up in their criticism of the league responses, either.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo slammed the league on Friday over its response to the situation, saying at the American Association of Christian Counselors in Nashville, Tennessee, that he wants the league to call out the country’s human rights abuses.
“The Chinese Communist Party is detaining and abusing more than one million Uighur Muslims in internment camps in the Xinjiang region of China,” Pompeo said, via Fox News. “The pages of George Orwell’s ‘1984’ are coming to life there. I wish the NBA would acknowledge that.”
President Donald Trump had previously promised Chinese president Xi Jinping that his administration would “remain quiet” on the protests in Hong Kong, according to CNN. Trump did attack Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich on their responses to the China controversy, however, saying Kerr was “like a little boy” on Thursday.
It’s been one week since Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted his support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong — which set off a chain of events in the days that followed. The NBA has since cancelled all media availability in China for the remainder of its exhibition trip in the country, a decision which was reportedly made “independent of Chinese authorities.”
It also canceled media availability before Thursday’s game between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets, something the Chinese government required in order to allow the game to be played in Shenzhen — which sits less than 30 miles from Hong Kong. The Rockets even awkwardly shut down a question on the incident directed at James Harden on Thursday, something the NBA has since apologized for.
“We have decided not to hold media availability for our teams for the remainder of our trip in China,” the league said on Friday. “They have been placed into a complicated and unprecedented situation while abroad and we believe it would be unfair to ask them to address these matters in real time.”
While the situation has proved to be a difficult one for the NBA to maneuver, it has brought politicians on both sides of the political spectrum together — with Pompeo being the latest example of that fact.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) introduced a bipartisan letter on Wednesday urging the NBA to suspend its activities in the country until China’s boycott of the league and the Rockets ends, expressing a “deep concern” over potential self-censorship within the league. The letter did come before NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s second statement on the incident, which insisted the league will not regulate speech.
Though the NBA may be going silent on the incident until further notice, it’s clear that others — including politicians on either side of the isle — aren’t letting it go just yet.
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