Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) defended the National Basketball Association (NBA) following backlash over comments made by an executive of the Houston Rockets, who expressed solidarity with protestors in Hong Kong.
“I don’t think you can ask an individual company to stand up against an entire sovereign state,” Gingrich told Hill.TV on Friday.
“What we’re probably going to have to invent is a model where in which a company that is being pressured by the Chinese can turn to the American government defend it,” he added.
Earlier this month, Houston Rocket General Manager Daryl Morey sparked a firestorm for tweeting in support of pro-Democracy protests in Hong Kong.
China, who is one of the league’s biggest sources of revenue, fumed over the comments, and the Chinese state television announced that it would not air preseason NBA games. Since the tweet, several Chinese sponsors have suspended ties with the league.
The NBA has also faced heat from U.S. lawmakers on both sides of the aisle after issuing a statement in which they called Morey’s comments “regrettable.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday blasted the NBA for their handling of the controversy, accusing the league of being accommodating to China.
“Some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of other peoples,” Pence said at an event in Washington.
But Gingrich suggested that the U.S. government should stepped in instead of letting the league face the brunt of the backlash.
“If we had stepped in and said, ‘Look you can go ahead and hurt the NBA — here are the six Chinese companies that we’re going to wipe out, so just understand you want to play this game, we’ll play the game too’, ” he said. “What you can’t do is have a totally one-sided deal.”