ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski apologized Friday for his response to a press release sent by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley regarding the NBA's stance on China and support for law enforcement officers and the military.
Hawley tweeted a screenshot of Wojnarowski's reply Friday (warning: contains profanity):
Shortly thereafter, Wojnarowski apologized in the following statement:
The press release sent by Hawley's office touts Hawley's letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in which he took issue with the league limiting what social justice messages players can wear on their uniforms when the 2019-20 NBA season resumes later this month.
Hawley believes the league is censoring slogans that support law enforcement officers and the military, and he accused Silver of protecting the Chinese Communist Party from criticism.
Hawley wrote the following in his letter to Silver:
"The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor—much like the censorship decisions of the [Chinese Community Party]—are themselves statements about your association's values. 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. 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?"
Following the death of 46-year-old Black man George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25, protests against racial inequality, social injustice and police brutality grew across the United States.
In an attempt to help its players contribute to the conversation surrounding social issues, the NBA and NBPA agreed to allow them to wear social justice messages on their jerseys, selected from a preapproved list, for the remainder of the season.
The NBA has worked hard to build a relationship with China over the years, especially since Chinese star Yao Ming was the first overall pick in the 2002 NBA draft.
While the NBA has become hugely popular in China and several games have been played in the country, the relationship between the two sides has been tenuous since last year when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted, "Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong."
China's CCTV ceased airing NBA games after that and released a statement in May saying it didn't plan to resume airing NBA games once the 2019-20 season picked back up.
Silver said in February that the NBA lost more than $300 million in revenue as a result of its issues with China.