Sen. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, called Tuesday on the NBA to squeeze out Golden State Warriors part-owner Chamath Palihapitiya for declaring “nobody cares” about Chinese oppression of the Uyghur minority.
Mr. Palihapitiya, a billionaire venture capitalist, walked back his comments Monday with a statement saying that “human rights matter,” but Mr. Cotton noted that the NBA has a history of booting team owners for offensive statements.
“Woke CEO Chamath Palihapitiya said no one cares about the Chinese Communist Party’s mass enslavement, torture, and rape of religious minorities,” Mr. Cotton said in a press release. “He may be so callous that he doesn’t care about genocide, but the American people do.”
The senator said that the “NBA has investigated owners and forced a sale after outrageous comments before, and it even moved the All-Star game to protest a North Carolina law saying boys and girls shouldn’t use the same bathroom.”
In April 2014, the NBA banned for life Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling over racist remarks made in an undercover audio recording. His family sold the team a few months later.
The NBA pulled the 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, to protest the passage of House Bill 2, which required people to use the public restrooms corresponding to the sex listed on their birth certificates.
“The league will prove itself greedy, spineless, and hypocritical if it doesn’t force Palihapitiya to sell his interest in the Warriors,” Mr. Cotton concluded.
Mr. Palihapitiya, who owns a minority stake in the Warriors, was widely condemned for telling All-In co-host Jason Calacanis that “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay?”
“You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care,” Mr. Palihapitiya said in the Saturday podcast. “I’m telling you a very hard ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.”
The Warriors organization issued a statement Monday saying that he “does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization,” after which Mr. Palihapitiya posted a clarification on Twitter.
“In re-listening to this week’s podcast, I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy,” he said. “I acknowledge that entirely. As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop.”
Mr. Palihapitiya, a Democratic Party donor, was born in Sri Lanka and has dual U.S.-Canadian citizenship.