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Legislators from Both Parties Are Calling Out the NBA Over China

In an era where we’re divided more than ever before by political positions and issues, it’s nice to see politicians from both sides of the aisle uniting on an important matter. This time, it’s the NBA’s kowtowing to China that has brought Democrats and Republicans together.

A group of legislators from both parties have sent a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver calling on the league to stop siding with China in its treatment of the protestors in Hong Kong. National Review reports that:

It was co-signed by eight members of Congress, including Republican Senators Tom Cotton, Ted Cruz, and Ben Sasse, as well as House Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D., N.Y.). Senator Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Representatives Jim Banks (R., In.), Mike Gallagher (R., Wis.), and Tom Malinowski (D., N.J.) also joined in on the letter.

Yesterday I wrote about how both the NBA and the sports media have done a disservice to these people speaking out against the authoritarian regime in China. From removing fans with pro-Hong Kong signs to not supporting Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey when he tweeted in solidarity with the protestors to failing to report on the situation in its proper context, the sports world has handled this controversy in a way that demonstrates less of a desire to do the right thing and more of a cozying up to Chinese money. It’s refreshing to see these representatives and senators uniting to call out the NBA for not doing the right thing.

The letter points out in poignant terms why the NBA’s stance is wrong.

NBA players have a rich history of speaking out on sensitive topics of social justice and human rights inside the United States, and the NBA takes pride in defending their right to do so. Yet while it is easy to defend freedom of speech when it costs you nothing, equivocating when profits are at stake is a betrayal of fundamental American values.

Worse, your statements come at a time when we would hope to see Americans standing up and speaking out in defense of the rights of the people of Hong Kong. The NBA’s initial statement, and pressure placed on Mr. Morey to back away from his statement, has not only sold out an American citizen. It reinforces the Chinese Communist Party view that those who point to Chinese repression in Hong Kong are at best stating opinions, not facts, and that the official Chinese government view deserves equal respect. Hundreds of millions of people within China will read your statements as an admission that their government’s propaganda is correct; millions of people in Hong Kong will be dispirited. That you have more potential fans in China than in Hong Kong is no excuse for bending over backwards to express “sensitivity” only to one side.

The legislators call on the NBA to support the right of players, executives, and fans to speak their mind on the issue. They also urge the league to cease business with China and reevaluate the basketball training camps there over the country’s treatment of the Houston Rockets. Finally, they ask the NBA to stand in favor of human rights in China.

It’s a powerful piece of expression, and it’s spot-on in its assessment of what the NBA is doing wrong and how it can remedy the controversy.

Kudos to these legislators for reaching across party lines in unity and calling on a sports behemoth to do the right thing. Now it’s on the NBA to listen and make the changes they need to make. Here’s hoping they will.

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