Sen. Josh Hawley called on the NBA to expand the issues players are allowed to support on their jerseys to include pro-police, U.S. military and Hong Kong protesters messages.
The Missouri Republican’s message apparently prompted quick backlash from Adrian Wojnarowski, one of the most senior sport reporters in the country, who replied with an expletive.
Mr. Wojnarowski issued an apology Friday afternoon, calling his response a “regrettable mistake.”
“I’m sorry for the way I handled myself and I am reaching out immediately to Senator Hawley to apologize directly,” his statement read. “I also need to apologize to my ESPN colleagues because I know my actions were unacceptable and should not reflect on any of them.”
The NBA and its player union announced last week that players can wear jerseys with 29 different messages linked to the Black Lives Matter movement, including “I Can’t Breathe” and “Say Their Names.” They also announced plans to paint the BLM mantra on courts when the season restarts in Florida.
In his letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Mr. Hawley called for phrases like “Back the Blue,” “God Bless America” to be added to the list of approved jersey add-ons.
He also said it was “offensive nonsense” to embrace expression for one social issue, but not speak out against the Chinese government’s treatment of protesters in Hong Kong.
“The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor — much like the censorship decisions of the [Chinese Communist Party] — are themselves statements about your association’s values,” Mr. Hawley wrote. “With your new policy, you have crossed the line of sanctioning specific political messages.”