Rick Scott demands meeting with NBA commissioner over China uproar

Rick Scott demands meeting with NBA commissioner over China uproar
© Aaron Schwartz

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) on Monday demanded a meeting with NBA commissioner Adam Silver over the league's response to the Houston Rockets general manager expressing support for protestors in Hong Kong.

“I am requesting a meeting with Commissioner Silver immediately to discuss the NBA’s involvement in Communist China. I was the first U.S. Senator to travel to Hong Kong since the protests began. What I saw was devastating. Men and women are risking their lives to fight for the same freedom we take advantage of in this country," Scott said in a statement to The Hill.

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“We must all put human rights above profit. And that means standing with Hong Kong. The NBA’s refusal to denounce Communist China for what it is – our adversary – is shameful. The NBA should stop playing games in Communist China, and I look forward to meeting with Commissioner Silver to discuss the importance of supporting the brave individuals fighting to free themselves from the grip of Communist China.”

Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey in a since-deleted tweet on Friday voiced support for the thousands of protesters that have taken to the streets of Hong Kong in the last few months, writing: "Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” Morey has said in subsequent statements that he does not represent the opinions of the Rockets or NBA.

The demonstrations in the semi-autonomous city began in opposition to a law that would allow criminal suspects to be extradited to mainland China but have since morphed into a broader pro-democracy movement.

In response to Morey's remarks, the Chinese Basketball Association and several TV providers suspended ties with the Rockets. 

The NBA on Sunday said it recognized that Morey's comments "have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable" but added that "we have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together."

Scott was one of the first lawmakers to pan the statement Sunday, calling it "shameful."

"It’s clear that the @NBA is more interested in money than human rights. Tonight’s statement from Commissioner Silver is an absolute joke," he tweeted.

"The NBA is kowtowing to Beijing to protect their bottom line and disavowing those with the temerity to #standwithHongKong. Shameful!"