Hawley fires back at ESPN, NBA over China

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) in an interview on Monday called ESPN’s suspension of reporter Adrian Wojnarowski a distraction from the NBA’s relationship with China and said he would support a Senate subpoena of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

In an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, Hawley said Wojnarowski, who was suspended by ESPN after he responded to an email from Hawley’s press office with an expletive, should be reinstated.

The real concern, Hawley said, was that the NBA, which is allowing preapproved messages for players to wear on the back of their jerseys in response to player involvement in Black Lives Matter protests, 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 Monday. “And you see the response from the reporter, and now ESPN, and say oh, you know, well, the reporter, we’ll take care of that. We’ll silence him. But they don’t want to address the core issue, which is the NBA’s relationship with China. ESPN has a slice of that pie.”

It’s unclear that any players were pushing to have messages about China on their jerseys. The push to have messages about Black Lives Matter on jerseys and on NBA courts emanated from the nationwide demonstrations against institutional racism after the May killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. 

That messaging was also a part of the negotiations between the NBA and the NBA Players Association that may allow the league to resume play at the end of July in a “bubble” environment in Orlando necessitated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Hawley has vociferously criticized the NBA over its relationship with China. ESPN is a chief media partner of the NBA and has also come under criticism. 

Last fall, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for protesters in Hong Kong and was criticized by China. 

Hawley has slammed the NBA for not offering more support for Morey, accusing the NBA and ESPN of bowing to Beijing. China’s government punished the NBA over Morey’s tweet, reducing its business with the league, which was fast growing in China.

Hawley in the interview with Hewitt called a Senate Judiciary Committee subpoena of Silver a “great idea.” He also said that the NBA owes the government more clarity about the size of its business dealings in China.

“This is big-time money for the NBA, and I think we do deserve to know exactly what they’re making,” Hawley said. “And we deserve to have them explain to us why they won’t stand up to this authoritarian regime.”

Wojnarowski has already apologized for the email he sent to Hawley, saying his actions were “unacceptable.” Players, including LeBron James, have called for his reinstatement by using the hashtag #FreeWoj on Twitter.

Tags China Josh Hawley NBA

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