- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2019

A Senate Republican on Monday slammed the NBA for saying it was “regrettable” that a Houston Rockets executive offended many in mainland China — a key market for the league — with a tweet in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Sen. Ben Sasse, Nebraska Republican, said it was a shameful apology that put the communist government ahead of fundamental freedoms.

“Basketball fans and the American people more broadly should have absolutely no doubt about what is happening here: The NBA wants money, and the Communist Party of China is asking them to deny the most basic of human rights. In response, the NBA issued a statement saying money is the most important thing,” Mr. Sasse said in an official statement from his office.

Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, quickly deleted a tweet in support of Hong Kong on Friday and said he didn’t mean to cause any offense to fans and friends in China.

“I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives,” he posted.

Still, there was an outcry in China, with sponsors cutting ties with the Rockets and the Chinese Basketball Association, led by former Houston star Yao Ming, also suspending its partnership.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass issued a statement that seemed to balance Mr. Morey’s right to express himself with business interests, causing backlash at home even as he tried to mollify fans abroad.

“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,’’ Mr. Bass said. “We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the N.B.A. can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”

Other politicians, besides Mr. Sasse, have weighed in through social media.

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, said the NBA is “shamefully retreating,” while Democratic 2020 presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke called the league’s statement “an embarrassment.”

“The only thing the NBA should be apologizing for is their blatant prioritization of profits over human rights,” Mr. O’Rourke tweeted.


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