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Members Of Congress Ask Adam Silver To Suspend NBA Activities In China

Photo: Andy Lyons (Getty)

A day after NBA commissioner Adam Silver released a statement wondering whether everyone couldn’t just get along and enjoy some hoops, eight members of Congress, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ted Cruz, signed a letter to Silver condemning the the NBA’s response to the controversy over Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors. Perhaps basketball can bring everyone together.

In the letter, linked here and available below, the lawmakers criticize the NBA for failing to put “fundamental democratic rights ahead of profit” and for being ill-equipped to deal with the foreseeable “challenges of doing business in a country run by a repressive single party government.” The bipartisan group also makes four requests of Silver:

1. Build upon your statement of October 8 in which you said “the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees, and team owners say or will not say on these issues” by clarifying that (a) NBA players, staff, partners, and fans in the United States are American persons-as such, you support their right to express their opinions no matter the economic consequences, and (b) while the NBA will follow Chinese law in China, the Chinese Communist Party must respect that the association will abide by American laws and principles in its global operations, including by not conditioning employment on any guidelines of expression on international political issues.

2. Suspend NBA activities in China until government-controlled broadcasters and government-controlled commercial sponsors end their boycott of NBA activities and the selective treatment of the Houston Rockets, and emphasize that the association will stand unified in the face of future efforts by Chinese government-controlled entities to single out individual teams, players, or associates for boycotts or selective treatment.

3. Reevaluate the NBA’s training camp in Xinjiang, where up to a million Chinese citizens are held in concentration camps as part of a massive, government-run campaign of ethno­religious repression.

4. Clarify in internal association documents that public commentary on international human rights repression-including in Tibet, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang-falls within expected standards of public behavior and expression.

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Setting aside that, uh, many of these lawmakers have not extended this interest in freedom of speech to, say, anyone who might want to criticize the government in Israel, they’re right to point attention to the NBA’s training camp in Xinjiang, where the Chinese government is incarcerating over a million Uighur Muslims, and to suggest the league use the leverage it has: a monopoly over the world’s best professional basketball. Other members of Congress have also released individual letters to Silver this week: Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley and U.S. Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey.

The full letter is below:

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