Sen. Josh Hawley slammed the NBA for its relationship with China and said he would support a Senate subpoena of NBA commissioner Adam Silver to discuss the topic.
During a Monday interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, the Republican lawmaker from Missouri said a Senate Judiciary Committee subpoena of Silver is a “great idea.”
Hawley has repeatedly ripped the NBA over its relationship with China.
Recently, he has expressed concern over the league allowing players to wear pre-approved messages on the back of their jerseys that support racial equality but did not include any phrases regarding China or supporting law enforcement.
“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 free Hong Kong or the Uyghurs or anything that has to do with the billions of dollars the NBA makes in China?” Hawley told Hewitt. “And you see the response from the reporter, and now ESPN, and say oh, you know, well, the reporter, we’ll take care of that. We’ll silence him. But they don’t want to address the core issue, which is the NBA’s relationship with China. ESPN has a slice of that pie.”
Hawley was referring to ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, who was suspended by ESPN, after he responded to an email from Hawley’s press office with an expletive. Hawley said he should be reinstated. Wojnarowski apologized for the email he sent to Hawley, calling his actions “unacceptable.”
Hawley said he would rather see his questions on the league's dealings with China answered than a reporter be suspended.
"ESPN is trying to distract from the fact that they will not stand up to the NBA and ask the tough questions," he said of the suspension.
The lawmaker said the NBA needs to provide the government with an explanation of its business dealings in China.
“This is big time money for the NBA, and I think we do deserve to know exactly what they’re making,” Hawley said. “And we deserve to have them explain to us why they won’t stand up to this authoritarian regime.”
Hawley came to the defense of Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey who called attention to Hong Kong protests on Twitter last fall.
"You might remember that the Houston Rockets’ general manager, Daryl Morey, when he retweeted, he didn’t even say it himself, he just retweeted one little line that said stand with Hong Kong or free Hong Kong, and oh, my goodness, the sky was falling," Hawley said. "He got censored. The league came down hard on him."
Hawley blasted the NBA for not offering more support for Morey and accused the NBA and ESPN of bowing to Beijing. China's government punished the NBA over Morey's tweet by reducing its business with the league, which was fast growing in China.
He said the NBA needs to stand up to China and say, "we are not going to be silent, and you’re not going to be able to buy us off."
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