Mark Kelly Silent on Prominent Chinese Investor Censoring NBA Broadcasting in China

Kelly still has significant investments in World View Enterprises, which he co-founded

Mark Kelly / Getty Images
October 17, 2019

Arizona Senate candidate Mark Kelly (D.) has been publicly silent about Chinese censorship, while a prominent investor in a company that Kelly cofounded temporarily banned NBA streaming in China.

Last week, the Chinese state-run television network CCTV announced that it was suspending its broadcasting arrangements to show NBA-preseason games in China. The Chinese firm Tencent, which owns all digital streaming rights for NBA games airing in China, also announced that it would "temporarily suspend" its broadcast arrangements. Both changes were a response to Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey's now-deleted tweet expressing support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

Tencent, a multinational conglomerate, is one of the investors in Tucson, Arizona-based World View Enterprises, a space-tourism startup cofounded by Kelly. Kelly served as a strategic adviser to World View until earlier this year, when he officially launched his Senate campaign, according to his spokesman Jacob Peters. While Peters told the Arizona Capitol Times that Kelly "supports those protesting for democracy in Hong Kong," Kelly himself has not come out publicly to express his support.

While Kelly is no longer serving in his adviser role at World View, he still has major investments in the startup, according to a financial disclosure filing from July 30. The filing shows he has between $100,001 and $250,000 worth of non-public stock from World View, and between $15,001 and $50,000 in stock options.

Kelly's campaign did not respond to a request for comment as to whether he still has investments in World View.

Kelly has received bipartisan scrutiny for his financial dealings since he launched his Senate bid against incumbent Sen. Martha McSally (R., Ariz.). Earlier this year, Rep. Ruben Gallego (D., Ariz.) slammed Kelly for saying he would not accept corporate PAC money, but then taking corporate money for his personal account.

"It’s kind of weird, though, to say you’re not taking corporate PAC money, but then also directly taking corporate PAC money into your personal account," Gallego said. "I don’t understand why [you would] even take that pledge if you’re not personally living that."

In July, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Kelly had made over $1.8 million in speaking fees over the previous 18 months and delivered 12 speeches since his campaign launch, totaling $290,400. Some of the corporate speaking gigs were sponsored by Goldman Sachs, Optum, and Mortgage Bankers Association, according to the Intercept.

Kelly has also received money from Steve Kerr, the NBA coach and outspoken liberal who has faced backlash for his own complicity in Chinese censorship. Kerr was asked about China's human-rights abuses in the wake of Morey's tweet about Hong Kong, and he pivoted to lecturing about gun violence.

Kerr, who said his choice not to visit the Trump White House in 2017 was a matter of "human respect," has gone mute when the topic of China has come up.

"The world is a complex place and there's more gray than black and white," Kerr said when asked about human rights.

Published under: Arizona , China