The NBA is drawing criticism for barring the phrase “FreeHongKong” on personalized officially licensed merchandise despite allowing other political messages on gear and customized team jerseys.
U.S. Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Josh Hawley of Missouri, both Republicans, joined President Donald Trump along with commentators and fans in condemning the NBA’s policy, especially after the league announced it would permit players to customize their jerseys with certain political slogans.
“The NBA bans you, the fan, from putting #freehongkong on customized league jerseys even as they allow players to wear customized jerseys,” Outkick sports reporter Clay Travis wrote on Twitter.
The issue came to light after an NBA fan going by the name “Vince” posted a video to Twitter on Sunday that was viewed nearly 800,000 times showing his blocked attempt to purchase a shirt with the phrase “FreeHongKong” from Fanatics.com, a site that sells official merchandise from all of the major sports leagues.
The NBA allows 12 characters, and Vince was permitted to purchase merchandise if he changed the phrase to “FreeHongKonu.”
The issue comes nine months after China complained bitterly about a tweet by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey that showed support for Hong Kong demonstrators against the Chinese government. Morey was forced to delete the tweet and apologize.
The NBA has a rights deal worth $1.5 billion to stream its games in China over the next five years.
Among those who criticized Morey was 16-time NBA All-Star and three-time NBA champion LeBron James.
Daily Caller writer Peter J. Hasson posted to Twitter, confirming that “FreeAmerica," "FreeCanada," "FreeMexico," and "FreeTaiwan" were allowed but “FreeHongKong” was not.
Hawley, who wrote to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver asking him to allow pro-military, pro-police messages after allowing other political slogans in the wake of protests and riots over the death of a Black man in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, decried the latest revelation.
“Of course - @NBA Incorporated doesn’t dare offend the paymasters in #Beijing!,” Hawley tweeted.
Scott called it “shameful cowardice” in a tweet, while Trump likewise mocked the NBA and James.
The NBA will resume its season on July 30 in Orlando, Florida.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.