Chamath Palihapitiya, a part-owner of the Golden State Warriors, did no favors for the NBA’s public relations woes on China by declaring “nobody cares” about the oppressed Uyghur minority.
Mr. Palihapitiya, who made his fortune in venture capital, weighed in on the Uyghur situation on the “All-In” podcast Saturday during a discussion of President Biden’s policies, which include his signing last month of the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act.
Co-host Jason Calacanis said the pro-Uyghur message had failed to boost the president’s standing in the polls, to which Mr. Palihapitiya replied: “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, OK?”
He continued: “You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care. I’m telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.”
Those decrying his comments on social media Monday included Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom, an outspoken China critic.
“When @NBA says we stand for justice, don’t forget there are those who sell their soul for money & business like @chamath the owner of @warriors, who says ‘Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,’” tweeted the player. “When genocides happen, it is people like this that let it happen. Shame!”
The NBA has been accused of soft-pedaling Beijing human rights abuses to protect its lucrative financial dealings with China, which NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has denied — a narrative resurrected by Mr. Palihapitiya’s comment.
Sen. Rick Scott, Florida Republican, on Monday accused the NBA of putting “profits over people.”
“We’ve always known that the @NBA & many of its owners are happy to put profits over people,” tweeted Mr. Scott. “Now @chamath is saying it plain as day: he doesn’t care that Communist China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. He doesn’t care that millions are sent to forced labor camps.”
Rep. Tom Tiffany, Wisconsin Republican, tweeted: “Looks like a Golden State @Warriors owner said the quiet part out loud about the @NBA view on the #genocide being carried out in #China. Hey Coach @stevekerr — care to give your boss an assist here?
In the podcast, Mr. Palihapitiya said that when it comes to human rights, “I think we have the responsibility to take care of our own backyard first [before telling] other people how they should be running their own countries.”
“Until we actually clean up our own house, the idea that we step outside our borders, with us sort of like morally virtue signaling about somebody else’s human rights record, is deplorable,” Mr. Palihapitiya said. “Look at the number of Black and Brown men that are incarcerated for absolutely ridiculous crimes.”
Then-Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey put the NBA in an awkward position in October 2019 with a pro-Hong Kong tweet that was decried by China. Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James later said that the GM was “not educated about the situation.”
The NBA issued a statement saying that Mr. Morey’s remarks “have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr said last year that he regretted not publicly defending Mr. Morey, who stepped down as Rockets GM in November 2020.
Mr. Palihapitiya, whose net worth is estimated at $1 billion, bought a minority stake in the Golden State Warriors in 2011, according to NBA.com.
The Warriors organization issued a statement Monday distancing itself from Mr. Palihapitiya’s comments.
“As a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions with the Warriors, Mr. Palihapitiya does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization.”