Ted Cruz, Mark Cuban spar over NBA viewership tweet
Republican Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban went head-to-head on Twitter Tuesday over reports that the third night of the NBA Finals on Sunday hit a record-low for the number of viewers, with Cruz attributing the slump to basketball teams turning “every game into a left-wing political lecture.”
The Texas senator started by retweeting an article from conservative political commentator Sean Hannity on Sunday’s Lakers-Heat game. The event had approximately 5.94 million viewers, the least-watched NBA Finals game on record, according to Sports Media Watch.
Game 3 of the Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptors delivered 13.1 million viewers last year, while the 1998 Finals featuring Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and the Utah Jazz averaged more than 29 million viewers.
“Not surprising,” Cruz tweeted. “Personally speaking, this is the first time in years that I haven’t watched a single game in the NBA Finals. #GoWokeGoBroke”
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) October 6, 2020
The hashtag refers to recent criticism of NBA teams and players calling for an end to police brutality following the killings of Black Americans, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
In August, multiple teams including both of Los Angeles’s teams, the Lakers and the Clippers, voted to boycott the remainder of the season following the police shooting of a 29-year-old Black man, Jacob Blake. in Kenosha, Wis. The NBA players eventually agreed to resume games, although there have been multiple efforts by players since then to bring attention to racial injustice.
Last week, reports circulated that NBA star LeBron James had recruited 10,000 volunteers to help at polls in Black electoral districts in November.
Many conservative sports fans have pushed back against NBA players’ public calls for racial justice.
Cuban responded to Cruz’s first tweet on Tuesday by saying that the elected official was “rooting for their businesses to do poorly.” In addition to the Mavericks, Texas is also home to the Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs.
“This is who you are @tedcruz . Every minute of your life, this is exactly who you are,” Cuban tweeted.
A US Senator with 3 @NBA teams in his state, employing thousands of people and he is rooting for their businesses to do poorly. This is who you are @tedcruz . Every minute of your life, this is exactly who you are. https://t.co/rnCV3qJTfQ
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) October 6, 2020
In response, Cruz tweeted “I love @HoustonRockets & have rooted for them my entire life. I happily cheer for the Spurs & Mavericks against any non-TX team. But @mcuban the NBA is engaged in a concerted effort to (1) insult their fans & (2) turn every game into a left-wing political lecture. That’s dumb.”
“You haven’t watched a game of the finals, how would you know what is being said or done?” Cuban replied. “Since when is a desire to end racism an insult to anyone or political? And you don’t think using #GetWokeGoBroke is a partisan insult? Again, this is who you are.”
Cruz opted to have the last word, replying to Cuban and claiming that he wished the Mavericks owner “loved his fans as much as he loves Chinese money.”
The NBA has recently sought to grow its presence in China, although this relationship was strained after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey last fall tweeted support for the ongoing protests in Hong Kong. In the days following, streaming services, sponsors and partners cut ties with the Rockets and the NBA.
The league also received condemnation from fans after an ESPN investigation published in July reportedly found cases of physical abuse against young players at NBA training academies in China.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) said in an interview following the report that he was concerned the NBA was allowing pre-approved messages for players to wear on the back of their jerseys in response to player involvement in Black Lives Matter protests, 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 Uighurs or anything that has to do with the billions of dollars the NBA makes in China?” Hawley said.
It was unclear at the time if any players were pushing to have messages about China on their jerseys.