2020 Election

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Maxes Out to Biden

League has cracked down on China critics while partnering with regime

Getty Images

NBA commissioner and China apologist Adam Silver contributed $2,800 to presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden's campaign, according to campaign finance records.

Silver's contribution—the maximum amount an individual can give to the candidate's campaign—came on June 18. Scrutiny over the league's relationship with China reignited weeks later as Silver announced a new jersey policy that allows players to wear custom messages in support of Black Lives Matter protests but forbids them from selecting messages that criticize China's human rights abuses.

Silver and the NBA have repeatedly kowtowed to China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters in October 2019. The NBA responded with a statement on its Chinese Twitter account, saying it was "extremely disappointed in the inappropriate comment." Rockets star James Harden also apologized for Morey's stance, appearing alongside teammate Russell Westbrook to say, "We love China." The NBA went on to confiscate pro-Hong Kong signs at a game between the Washington Wizards and a Chinese team just days later.

Silver has since called Morey's tweet a "bump in the road" in the league's relationship with China, saying the communist nation has "a different view of how things have been done" and that he hopes to "find mutual respect for each other." The comments came as China imposed a new national security law on Hong Kong that criminalizes any act of secession, subversion, or foreign collusion with a penalty of life imprisonment.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) responded by sending Silver an open letter. The Missouri Republican accused Silver of "excusing and apologizing for the brutal repression of the Chinese Communist regime," writing that the league is "more committed to promoting the CCP's interests than to celebrating its home nation." Hawley went on to express support for a Senate subpoena of Silver in an attempt to further reveal the league's relationship with the communist nation.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) also sent Silver a letter criticizing the NBA for operating a training academy in Xinjiang, where China reportedly holds one million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. According to Blackburn's letter, detainees are subject to "torture, physical abuse, and prolonged detention without trial," as well as "sterilization treatments and forced abortions in a barbaric attempt to reduce Uyghur birth rates."

Silver did not respond to Blackburn's letter, instead directing deputy commissioner Mark Tatum to answer. Tatum revealed on Tuesday that the league has "terminated" its relationship with the Xinjiang academy. While Blackburn praised the decision, she criticized Tatum's response to scrutiny over the NBA's relationship with Alibaba—the Chinese tech giant's founder and former chairman, Jack Ma, is a CCP member. According to Tatum, the NBA has a "multi-year contractual relationship" with the company, which includes "NBA game highlights and other NBA-related content" on Alibaba's digital platforms and "operates a store on Alibaba's e-commerce platform." Blackburn said the partnership "remains a cause for concern."

"Chinese companies are notorious for stealing American intellectual property and technology, and these thefts have cost our businesses billions of dollars in economic loss," Blackburn said in a statement following Tatum's response. "The NBA's continued financial relationship with Alibaba requires a closer look."

According to federal campaign finance disclosures, Silver did not donate to Democratic causes prior to January 2019, when he gave $1,000 to Sen. Kamala Harris's (D., Calif.) presidential campaign. Silver has also contributed $2,700 to Sen. Cory Booker's (D., N.J.) presidential campaign, $1,000 to Pete Buttigieg's presidential campaign, and $1,000 to New York attorney and former Democratic congressional candidate Adam Schleifer.