Prominent Hong Kong freedom activist Joshua Wong on Friday branded “a really big slap in the face” an email from ESPN NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), that read simply, “Fuck you.”
Hawley published the email response, which appeared to be hastily sent from Wojnarowski’s iPhone, on Friday. The insult was a response to a standard press email from Hawley’s office questioning the NBA’s relationship with China — a regime that has imprisoned millions in concentration camps and recently passed a law effectively ending free speech in Hong Kong.
“For those of us fighting for our very lives against Chinese repression ON A DAILY BASIS, this is a really big slap in the face,” Wong posted on Twitter, calling the email “just insane!”
“The multibillion American sports industry (including @NBA, @espn and @KingJames) ought to stop just talking loud at home then kowtowing to Beijing,” he added, referencing NBA star LeBron James, who last year criticized Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey for posting a statement supporting Wong’s movement against China on Twitter.
For those of us fighting for our very lives against Chinese repression ON A DAILY BASIS, this is a really big slap in the face. The multibillion American sports industry (including @NBA, @espn and @KingJames) ought to stop just talking loud at home then kowtowing to Beijing.
— Joshua Wong 黃之鋒 😷 (@joshuawongcf) July 10, 2020
“Wow, a sitting U.S. Senator called @NBA out for allowing players to wear only pre-approved political slogans on their jerseys that DON’T address human-rights abuses in #HongKong and #Xinjiang,” tweeted Wong, who shared a screenshot of Wojnarowski’s email.
“Then [ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski] replied to his office’s e-mail with two words: ‘fuck you,’” he added. “Just insane!”
Hawley’s email read as follows:
Today Senator Josh Hawley is sending a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver blasting 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).
Senator Hawley writes that, as the NBA is now sanctioning political messages, they must stand up for American values and make clear where they stand on China’s human rights abuses.
The NBA recently announced it had approved the use of political slogans on jerseys, but only those that the NBA itself had screened. As the NBA makes millions of dollars selling its product in China, it appears to have censored anything that may insult the Communist Party.
The NBA’s relationship with China was the subject of controversy last summer after Morey expressed support for the protests, at the time against a proposed law that would have allowed the Communist Party to extradite anyone present in Hong Kong into the communist legal system. The NBA openly operates a training facility in Urumqi, Xinjiang, China — a province in which the Communist Party has established concentration camps for its Muslim minority population.
“My phone has been ringing off the hook with lobbyists from @espn, from @Disney, the works,” Hawley posted later on Friday afternoon, a response from the corporations that apparently came about because Hawley posted the email.
“Let’s make this simple,” the senator added. “I’m inviting ESPN CEO Jimmy Pitaro to Washington. My office. Let’s sit down and discuss ESPN, #China, the @NBA. Look forward to his response.”
My phone has been ringing off the hook with lobbyists from @espn, from @Disney, the works. Let’s make this simple. I’m inviting ESPN CEO Jimmy Pitaro to Washington. My office. Let’s sit down and discuss ESPN, #China, the @NBA. Look forward to his response
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) July 10, 2020
Wong is one of Hong Kong’s most prominent anti-China activists. Despite being 23 years old, Wong has been politically active for nearly a decade, beginning his activism at age 14 and later rising to international prominence three years later as part of the “Umbrella Movement” protests against China in 2014. Wong has consistently criticized Chinese dictator Xi Jinping for attempting to dissolve Hong Kong’s autonomy, resulting in multiple arrests and being banned from running for office last year.
Hong Kong residents are currently protesting the passage of a “national security” law in Beijing — which violates the “One Country, Two Systems” policy that prevents Beijing from imposing laws on Hong Kong — that makes it a crime punishable by a minimum of a decade in prison to support independence for Hong Kong or attempt to “subvert” the power of the Communist Party.