Mitch McConnell: NBA Shouldn’t Put ‘Profits over Free Speech’ for China

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 11: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (R) testifies before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on behalf of his wife Elaine Chao (C) during her confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. secretary of transportation as her father Dr. James Chao (L) looks on …
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) on Tuesday joined the chorus of lawmakers condemning the National Basketball League for apologizing to communist China after one of the league’s general managers expressed support for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong.

“The people of Hong Kong have risked much more than money to defend their freedom of expression, human rights, and autonomy. I hope the @NBA can learn from that courage and not abandon those values for the sake of their bottom line,” McConnell wrote on Twitter.

McConnell’s condemnation is especially significant not only because he is one of Washington’s most powerful lawmakers, but because his wife, Elaine Chao, who serves as Trump’s Transportation Secretary, is Chinese-American. As senior Breitbart News contributor Peter Schweizer writes in his #1 New York Times bestselling book Secret Empires, McConnell and Chao’s financial ties to China run deep. Notably, the couple has received between $5 million to $25 million from her Chao’s father, James Chao, whose shipping firm, Foremost Group, has done business with the Chinese government.

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey set off a firestorm over his deleted tweet in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.

A short time after Morey posted that statement, the NBA said it was “regrettable” that the deleted tweet offended many in China. And all that followed several companies in China, including some of the NBA’s major business partners there, lashing out over Morey’s original tweet.

Morey tweeted an image that read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong.” referring to the four-month-old protests in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory. That led to Houston owner Tilman Fertitta turning to Twitter to say that Morey does not speak for the Rockets, and sparking an outcry that included the Chinese Basketball Association — whose president is Yao Ming, the former Rockets star center — saying it was suspending its relationship with the team.

“I did not intend my tweet to cause any offense to Rockets fans and friends of mine in China,” Morey wrote on Twitter Monday.  “I was merely voicing one thought, based on one interpretation, of one complicated event. I have had a lot of opportunity since that tweet to hear and consider other perspectives.

“I have always appreciated the significant support our Chinese fans and sponsors have provided and I would hope that those who are upset will know that offending or misunderstanding them was not my intention. My tweets are my own and in no way represent the Rockets or the NBA,” he added.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) on Monday sent a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver blasting the league’s apology to the Chinese government and demanded it cancels its upcoming exhibition games in the country.

“I write today to express my disgust about the position of the National Basketball Association (NBA) with respect to Hong Kong and the freedom of the Chinese people. Doing business in China is one thing, but for the NBA to kowtow to the demands of one of the world’s most brutal regimes in the pursuit of profit is, frankly, revolting. You know better. And the people of this country deserve better,” the senator wrote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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