A bipartisan coalition of members of Congress sent a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Wednesday “to express our deep concern” over the NBA’s statements surrounding controversy over a tweet last week by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who expressed support for pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
“It is outrageous that the Chinese Communist Party is using its economic power to suppress the speech of American inside the United States. It is also outrageous that the NBA has caved to Chinese government demands for contrition,” the letter reads. 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.
The co-signers criticize Silver and the NBA for not anticipating “the challenged of doing business in a country run by a repressive single party government” and for not standing up for Morey.
“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,” the letter states. “That you have more potential fans in China than in Hong Kong is no excuse for being over backwards to express ‘sensitivity’ only to one side.”
The NBA released an initial statement Sunday night which called the situation “regrettable,” while the league’s China social media count stated it was “extremely disappointed” by Morey’s “inappropriate” comments that “severely hurt the feelings of Chinese fans.” NBA spokesman Mike Bass said on Monday that there should not have been a discrepancy. On Tuesday, Adam Silver seemed to defend Morey in a press conference, saying “we will have to live with those consequences” stemming from his original tweet. Chinese league sponsors have responded by suspending or severing ties with the NBA.
The letter from Congress concludes by asking Silver to take a number of steps, including a suspension of NBA activities in China until government-backed Chinese firms end their “selective treatment” of the Houston Rockets, as well as affirming internally “that public commentary on international human rights repression . . . falls within expected standards of public behavior and expression.”