GOP's Hawley Calls NBA Subpoena 'Great Idea'

MO senator wants league to explain financial dealings with China

Sen. Josh Hawley (Getty Images)
July 13, 2020

Sen. Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) wants to subpoena NBA commissioner Adam Silver to testify about the league's relationship with China.

"We deserve to have them explain to us why they won't stand up to this authoritarian regime. … I mean, it's not a hard question to answer, do you think that the Chinese government ought to be putting people into concentration camps," Hawley said Monday morning on the Hugh Hewitt Show. "Getting these answers is absolutely crucial, and I'm open to just about any avenue to get them."

Hawley's comments came after the Missouri Republican sent an open letter to the NBA that condemned its new jersey policy, which allows players to wear messages in support of the Black Lives Matter movement but does not allow them to select messages criticizing human rights violations in China.

"If a player chooses to display a message of support for victims of the Chinese Communist 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?" the letter reads. No amount of profit can justify collaborating with a regime for which violent suppression and enslavement are routine tools of governance."

According to Hawley, "at least 10 to 20 percent" of the NBA's more than $10 billion in revenue comes from China. Those lucrative dealings have caused the league to crackdown on anyone who criticizes the regime. A number of league players and officials have also kowtowed to China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed support for the Hong Kong protests in October 2019. NBA superstar LeBron James responded by calling Morey "misinformed or not really educated on the situation." Silver in July called the incident "a bump in the road" in the league's relationship with China, adding that the communist nation has a different view of "how things should be done."

"So this is big time money for the NBA, and I think we do deserve to know exactly what they're making," Hawley said Monday. "We're just talking about basic American principles. This shouldn't be controversial. This is the stuff that we all agree on as Americans—free speech, freedom of worship."

Hawley's attempt to spotlight the human rights abuses of the Chinese regime has drawn the ire of the basketball world. ESPN senior NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski sent an email to Hawley Friday, telling the senator "F—k you." ESPN reportedly suspended the reporter for two weeks. Hawley said he did not want the apology and criticized the suspension, instead calling on ESPN to "ask the tough questions" regarding the NBA's China ties.

"ESPN is trying to distract from the fact that they will not stand up to the NBA and ask the tough questions," Hawley said Monday. "I don't want an apology, and I certainly don't want the guy suspended. … My point is they won't even ask the questions, and if you ask the questions, then the response is F you."