GOP Senator Accuses NBA of Promoting Chinese Communist Party's Interests Over Uniform Change

A Republican senator accused the NBA of promoting the Chinese Communist Party's interests in a letter Friday over a new change in game-worn uniforms.

Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) sent the letter to blast "the league's apparent decision to strictly limit messages players can wear on their jerseys to a few pre-approved, social justice slogans while censoring support for law enforcement officers or the military and any criticism of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)."

Hawley criticized the NBA's July 3 decision to allow players to include messages on the backs of their jerseys. The reportedly approved list of slogans that was agreed upon by the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association, the labor union representing players, include "Black Lives Matter," "Say Their Names," and "I Can't Breathe." These slogans have been widely used during the protests that took place across the country in the aftermath of the incident regarding George Floyd, who died on May 25 in police custody.

"Conspicuously missing from the list of approved phrases are any in support of the victims of the [CCP] including the people of Hong Kong, whose remaining freedoms are being extinguished by the CCP's newly-enacted national security law," Hawley said in his letter.

Hawley said the NBA had a "troubled history" with siding with the CCP, specifically after Daryl Morey, the general manager of the Houston Rockets, tweeted out a message on October 4, 2019 in support of Hong Kong protesters. The now-deleted tweet said: "Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong."

The NBA sent a statement three days after Morey's tweet, saying his views "deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable."

"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," the NBA said in its statement.

Hawley said in his letter that "no amount of profit can justify collaborating with a regime for which violent suppression and enslavement are routine tools of governance." He then asked the NBA, who he said is "sanctioning political message" whether they would be censoring other political views.

"If a player chooses to display a message of support for victims of the Chinese Community Party on their jersey, will the NBA allow the player to wear their jersey or will it censor that player in order to avoid drawing Beijing's ire?" Hawley stated.

The senator also asked if slogans such as "God Bless America," "Support Our Troops" or "Back the Blue" would be censored.

Newsweek reached out to the NBA, NBPA, and Hawley's office for further comment, but did not received responses back in time for publication.

Senator Josh Hawley
Senator Josh Hawley, (R-Mo) in Washington, DC, on June 16, 2020. Senator Hawley accused the NBA of promoting the Chinese Communist Party's interests. Tom Williamson/Getty