U.S. Senator asks NBA to clarify its relationship with China

Adam Silver NBA Commissioner
Photo: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn sent a letter to the NBA asking for answer about the league’s relationship with China as reported by Sports Illustrated.

The letter refers to the incident which started by the Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeting in support of Hong Kong protest, which caused a strong reaction by China. Both the league and Morey tried to save the relationship with one of the biggest markets for the NBA. But the league still lost approximately $400 million.

“Your league’s business interests are closely intertwined with Communist China’s estimated $ billion NBA market. While the NBA has worked hard to raise awareness of social issues at home, there is concern that the league has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses committed abroad – even bowing down to pressure last year. The actions of the NBA and some players have created an appearance that your league prioritizes profit over principle. This accusation may be inaccurate; however, I urge you give it careful thought,” Sen. Blackburn wrote in her letter.

She referred to the Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James in the letter, saying that “All-Star players called Morey misinformed and not really educated”.

“The fallout over Houston Rockets’ General Manger Daryl Morey’s pro-Hong Kong tweet last October was stunning. Many in China called for his firing, and Beijing even attempted to muzzle his voice in a state-run news outlet. The Rockets’ owner initially rebuked Morey’s comments and only recently admitted, “There was nothing wrong with the tweet.” Others like Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai (and Ahbaba co-founder) publicly sided with China and characterized Hong Kong protesters as a “separatist movement.” All-Star players called Mr. Morey “misinformed” and “not really educated,” apologized for his criticism, and proclaimed “we love China.” Outspoken championship coaches uncharacteristically claimed ignorance or demurred on the issue.”

The letter ends with Sen. Blackburn asking the NBA to provide a written response by July 21 to the following questions:

  1. What are the anticipated financial consequences of China Central Television’s (CCTV) continued ban on the airing of NBA games?
  2. Please outline the scope of the NBA’s relationship with Chinese state-owned enterprise Ahbaba.
  3. The NBA reportedly continues to operate a training center Xinjiang, one of the world’s worst humanitarian zones. What steps is the NBA taking to shutter this location?

After the story was published on Sports Illustrated, Sen. Blackburn re-tweeted by saying that “The NBA’s business interests are closely intertwined with Communist China’s estimated $4 billion NBA market. The actions of the NBA and some players have made it seem that the league prioritizes profit over human rights.”