- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2019

Basketball legend Charles Barkley said Thursday that Vice President Mike Pence needs to “shut the hell up” about the National Basketball Association’s feud with China.

The NBA has been steeped in controversy after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey inadvertently created an international conflict when he tweeted a picture calling his followers to “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.”

Mr. Morey deleted and apologized for the tweet, but it led China’s state broadcaster to cancel plans to show a pair of preseason games in that country and even asked the NBA to fire Mr. Morey, which China denies. Chinese NBA stores also pulled Rockets’ merchandise from their shelves.

SEE ALSO: Pence scolds NBA over Hong Kong retreat: ‘Wholly owned subsidiary’ of Chinese Communist Party

The controversy has prompted NBA superstars and coaches to choose sides, and Mr. Pence shared his disappointment that many big names have chosen to side against Mr. Morey.

“Some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of other peoples,” Mr. Pence said. “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.”

Mr. Barkley, who was attending a TNT pregame show with NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Thursday, told the vice president to “shut the hell up.”

“Vice President Pence needs to shut the hell up, number one,” Mr. Barkley said. “All American companies are doing business in China. I thought the criticism of Commissioner Silver and LeBron James was unfair. Daryl Morey — who I like — he can say whatever he wants to. But there are consequences.

“I don’t understand why these holier-than-thou politicians — if they’re so worried about China, why don’t they stop all transactions with China? President Trump has been talking about and arguing with tariffs for China for the last two years. I think it’s unfair for them to do all their business in China and just because this thing happens try to make the NBA and our players look bad. All American companies do business in China. Period.”

The NBA originally said the tweet was “regrettable,” but Mr. Silver supported Mr. Morey and his right to freedom of speech, leading the feud to continue nearly a month later.

Los Angeles Lakers’ star player, LeBron James, criticized Mr. Morey’s comments on China as not being “educated,” while Shaquille O’Neal said the situation was “unfortunate for both parties,” but that “Daryl Morey was right.”


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