The National Basketball Association (NBA) released a public statement jabbing the “not guilty” verdict in the case against Kyle Rittenhouse on Friday just hours after the verdict was announced. Meanwhile, the league has remained quiet about its business relationship with China, which has been accused of human rights abuses and genocide against its minority Uyghur population.
Rittenhouse acted in self-defense when he fatally shot two men and wounded a third on Aug. 25, 2020 and on Friday, a jury returned a “not guilty” verdict on all charges against Rittenhouse. The NBA characterized the incident as an act of vigilantism and an attack on a peaceful protest.
The NBA said, “Statement from National Basketball Social Justice Coalition Executive Director James Cadogan on the verdict in Kenosha, Wisconsin.”
“Our thoughts are with the families of those whose lives were taken in this tragedy,” Cadogan said. “The right to peacefully protest is a bedrock of our democracy and the National Basketball Social Justice Coalition remains committed to preserving that right for all. Any forms of vigilantism in our society are unacceptable.”
While the NBA was quick to react to the Rittenhouse verdict, the league has been less willing to address its business relations with China or to allow its individual players to speak out about human rights concerns in the country. Earlier this month, Boston Celtics player Enes Kanter said he was pressured by the NBA to stop criticizing the Communist Chinese Party (CCP) and said the league threatened to ban him if he continued.
China has been accused of interning about 1.8 million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities in its western Xinjiang region. China has also been accused of committing genocide against the Uyghur population through the use of forced sterilizations, abortions and birth control regimens to drive down the ethnic group’s reproduction.
The Rittenhouse trial garnered national attention as a high-profile case of self-defense and gun rights, and much of the evidence was widely available video footage.
On Aug. 25, 2020, Rittenhouse had joined a group of armed citizens defending a trio of car dealerships amid ongoing violent and destructive riots in the streets of Kenosha, Wisconsin following the police shooting of a black man named Jacob Blake. Throughout the night, Rittenhouse put out fires started at and around the dealerships and offered first aid to people in the crowds on the streets that night. Rittenhouse was armed with an AR-15 style rifle that night.
When Rittenhouse went to put out a fire at one of the dealerships, a man by the name of Joseph Rosenbaum chased Rittenhouse through the used-car lot, threw a bag at him and eventually caught up to Rittenhouse and reached for his rifle. As Rosenbaum reached for the rifle, Rittenhouse shot four times, killing his pursuer.
In the moments after shooting Rosenbaum, members of the crowd began chasing after Rittenhouse who ran in the direction of a nearby police line. As he ran towards the police, multiple pursuers attacked Rittenhouse and he fell to the ground. After falling to the ground, a man named Anthony Huber swung a skateboard at Rittenhouse’s head and grabbed for his rifle before Rittenhouse fired another shot, fatally wounding Huber.
At that point, a third individual named Gaige Grosskreutz approached Rittenhouse and pointed a handgun at him as he sat up from the ground. As Grosskreutz pointed his handgun at Rittenhouse, Rittenhouse fired again, wounding Grosskreutz in the arm.
Rittenhouse claimed self-defense in the shooting incidents, but he was ultimately charged with first-degree intentional homicide, attempted first-degree intentional homicide, first-degree reckless homicide, two counts of first-degree recklessly endangering safety, and possession of a dangerous weapon by a person under the age of 18. The latter charge was ordered dropped by Judge Bruce Schroeder before jury deliberation began last week.
On Friday, after a two-week trial in which prosecutors presented their case against Rittenhouse and Rittenhouse’s lawyers presented his case for self-defense, a jury returned a not-guilty verdict on all remaining five charges.