Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse slammed NBA star Lebron James for James’ tepid comments on communist China’s human rights records and the NBA’s ongoing public relations fiasco with the Chinese state.
In a Monday night tweet, Sasse accused James of “parroting communist propaganda” after James criticized a since-deleted tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey which appeared to express support for protesters in Hong Kong who have opposed expanding Chinese authority over the city.
“China is running torture camps and you know it. #GoogleUyghurs,” Sasse continued in his tweet, appearing to call on James to research the alleged torture of the Chinese Muslim Uyghur minority at the hands of the Chinese government.
— Senator Ben Sasse (@SenSasse) October 15, 2019
For several months, U.S. politicians have criticized China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslim population. In a recent conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recounted the case of one Muslim woman who was reportedly imprisoned, beaten for helping a fellow prisoner, forced to recite Chinese propaganda and injected with unknown chemical substances.
Sasse’s criticism followed James’ own remarks in which James said “so many people could have been harmed, not only financially, but physically, emotionally, spiritually,” by Morey’s tweet in support of Hong Kong protests.
Since Morey’s tweet – “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong” – the NBA has worried over how Morey’s comment would play out before Chinese audiences and censors. Chinese media has indeed distanced itself from the NBA by, among other moves, canceling their broadcast of an exhibition game between the Brooklyn Nets and James’ Los Angeles Lakers.
Though normally a stern advocate of social justice causes, James appeared to suggest he did not disagree with the substance of Morey’s tweet but said Morey “Could have waited a week to send it.”
My team and this league just went through a difficult week. I think people need to understand what a tweet or statement can do to others. And I believe nobody stopped and considered what would happen. Could have waited a week to send it.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) October 15, 2019
Fellow Republican and Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley joined the criticism for James’ comments about the potential harm of Morey’s since-deleted tweet.
“News flash: people ARE being harmed – shot, beaten, gassed – right now in Hong Kong. By China. By the Communist Party the NBA is so eager to appease,” Hawley said.
This statement is unbelievable. “So many people could have been harmed”? By Daryl Morey daring to express sympathy for democracy? News flash: people ARE being harmed – shot, beaten, gassed – right now in Hong Kong. By China. By the Communist Party the NBA is so eager to appease
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) October 15, 2019
Hawley called on James to visit Hong Kong and meet protesters “risking their lives for their most basic liberties.”
James is among several normally outspoken social critics within the NBA who have received criticism for their apparent silence on human rights issues in China. Last week, Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr seemed to avoid controversial issues in China by instead pointing to issues of gun violence in America.