ESPN’s leading NBA reporter sent an expletive-laced email to the office of Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) after Hawley challenged NBA commissioner Adam Silver over the league’s new policy that allows players to wear social justice messages on their jerseys.
After he sent a Friday letter to Silver — which asked if the league would allow for players to promote pro–law enforcement or anti–Chinese Communist Party messages — Hawley tweeted an email that he received from Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN’s senior NBA insider.
After Hawley’s press office blasted out the letter’s release, Wojnarowski responded by emailing “f*** you.”
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) July 10, 2020
Wojnarowski later apologized on Twitter, saying his actions were “disrespectful” and that he would reach out to Hawley directly to apologize. In a statement, ESPN said the email was “completely unacceptable behavior.”
“It is inexcusable for anyone working for ESPN to respond in the way Adrian did to Senator Hawley. We are addressing it directly with Adrian and specifics of those conversations will remain internal,” ESPN added.
In his letter, Hawley challenges the NBA over its “decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor.” The reported list of preapproved messages for players to wear when the NBA resumes at the end of the month include “Black Lives Matter,” “Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can),” “Anti-Racist,” and more, but does not include any phrases supporting the U.S. military or pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
“If I am right — if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than to celebrating its home nation — your fans deserve to know that is your view. If not, prove me wrong,” Hawley writes. “Let your players stand up for the Uighurs and the people of Hong Kong. Let them stand up for American law enforcement if they so choose. Give them the choice to write ‘Back the Blue’ on their jerseys. Or ‘Support our Troops.’ Maybe ‘God Bless America.’ What could be more American than that?”
Hawley has been outspokenly critical of the NBA over its handling of a pro–Hong Kong tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey last October. Following Chinese outrage over Morey’s actions, which the NBA called “regrettable,” the league attempted to distance itself from Morey as it launched a preseason tour in China. The move drew widespread bipartisan criticism from lawmakers, and Hawley called on the NBA to “show a little backbone” in the face of Chinese censorship.
Speaking about the affair last month, Silver said that he believed relations between the league and China — its largest overseas market — have improved.
“As I’ve said before . . . we come to China with a certain set of core American values and principles,” Silver explained. “They have a different view of how things have been done, how things should be done. And hopefully, we can find mutual respect for each other.”
Editor’s Note: This piece has been updated with additional comments from ESPN and Wojnarowski.