- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 1, 2020

In a recent interview with Time magazine, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league’s relationship with China has improved in the months since Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey set off an international controversy by tweeting support for freeing Hong Kong. 

Now, a Republican senator is asking questions about the NBA’s relationship with China. 

Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn sent a letter to Silver on Tuesday that expressed concern over the league’s ties with a Communist regime, Sports Illustrated reported. In a two-page letter, Blackburn presented three questions she wants answered by July 21 about the relationship. 

Those three questions include: 

1. What are the anticipated financial consequences of China Central Television’s (CCTV) continued ban on the airing of NBA games?

2. Please outline the scope of the NBA’s relationship with Chinese state-owned enterprise Alibaba.

3. The NBA reportedly continues to operate a training center Xinjiang, one of the world’s worst humanitarian zones. What steps is the NBA taking to shutter this location?

Last October, Morey tweeted an image that included the caption ““Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong” that supported the pro-democracy protesters in the city. That tweet angered Chinese officials and CCTV stopped all NBA broadcasts. In February, Silver said the league expected to lose “hundreds of millions of dollars” because of the rift. 

The league itself faced criticism for its handling of the incident. In an initial statement, the NBA said Morey’s tweet was “regrettable” and star LeBron James called the opinion “misinformed” — causing politicians on both sides of the aisle to criticize the league and James for not standing up for Morey. 

The NBA has had a preseason game in China every year since 2007 and their relationship spans back to the 1980s.

“We’re just going to keep at it,” Silver told TIME. “We’ve had a long history in China. And certainty this is a bump in the road in our relations. Obviously, I think we all understand each other. … We come to China with a certain set of core American values and principles. And I understand also they have a different form of government. … Hopefully, we can find mutual respect for each other.” 

In her letter, Blackburn said she was concerned the league “has tuned a blind eye to human rights abuses committed abroad.” Blackburn listed a number of actions from the Chinese government, such as the country’s “inhumane treatment of the Uyghurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group.” 

The actions of the NBA and some players have created an appearance that your league prioritizes profit over principle,” Blackburn wrote. “This accusation may be inaccurate; however, I urge you to give it careful thought.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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