Members of Congress Send Letter to Adam Silver over NBA's Response to China

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorOctober 10, 2019

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 8: A general picture of a basketball displayed with the Oriental pearl tower displayed in the background at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Shanghai, China on October 8, 2019 as part of 2019 NBA Global Games China. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Eight members of Congress penned a joint letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Wednesday, expressing their disappointment in the league's actions following Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's since-deleted tweet in support of protests in Hong Kong.

"It is outrageous that the Chinese Communist Party is using its economic power to suppress the speech of Americans in the United States," the letter read in part.

"It is also outrageous that the NBA has caved into Chinese government demands for contrition."

Sens. Ben Sasse, Ron Wyden, Tom Cotton and Ted Cruz, along with Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Tom Malinowski, Mike Gallagher and Jim Banks, also called on Silver to take four actions.

They include expanding upon an Oct. 8 statement, suspending NBA activities in China until broadcasters and sponsors lift their boycott of the Houston Rockets, re-evaluating the league's training camp in Xinjiang and sending internal documents that public remarks on human rights issues fall "within expected standards of public behavior and expression."

Jordan Valinsky of CNN Business provided a recap of events leading from Morey's tweet until Wednesday afternoon.

Chinese corporations boycotted the Rockets following Morey's comments, pulling planned broadcasts of the team and dropping sponsorships. The Chinese Basketball Association also cut off all ties with the team, and the Chinese general consulate told Houston to "correct the mistakes."

On Monday, the NBA released an official statement in English.

"We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable. While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals' educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. 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."

However, a Mandarian translation of the statement contained stronger language denouncing Morey, per the Associated Press (h/t NBC News).

"The NBA's Chinese social media account posted a statement Monday saying the league was 'extremely disappointed' by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's 'inappropriate' tweet that showed support for Hong Kong anti-government protesters, adding that Morey's view 'severely hurt the feelings of Chinese fans.'"

NBA Chief Communications Officer Mike Bass then offered a response to the translation.

"There should be no discrepancy on the statement issued last night," Bass said.

"We have seen various interpretations of the translation of the Mandarin version, but our statement in English is the league's official statement."

Silver also spoke at a Tuesday press conference.

"The NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say," Silver told reporters. "We simply could not operate that way."

On the same day, CCTV Sports, which is China's primary sports broadcaster, said it would not air any NBA preseason games in China. The next one scheduled is between the Brooklyn Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers in Shanghai on Thursday at 7:30 a.m. ET.

"I do know there are consequences from freedom of speech; we will have to live with those consequences," Silver added. "For those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business."

Despite news that the Lakers vs. Nets game may be canceled, the matchup is scheduled to go on as planned, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium. The two teams are also slated to play Saturday in Shenzhen.

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