On the NBA’s opening day, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) isn’t letting the league’s feud with China go quietly.
Cruz penned an Op-Ed in USA Today on Tuesday morning, ahead of the first two games of the 2019-20 NBA season, urging the league not to “pander to China’s brutal Communist Party” and to “stand up for U.S. free speech.”
“Whether it’s baseball in America, cricket in India or rugby in New Zealand, sports teams are influential in forming the identity of a nation and direction of a culture,” Cruz wrote.
“In a country where citizens are routinely censored, surveilled and oppressed, and hundreds of thousands of Uighurs are prosecuted and detained, basketball is one of the last remnants of American influence in China before its 1949 communist revolution. That’s why lawmakers from both parties, Americans across the country, and people around the world were deeply concerned by the NBA’s initial statement of regret in the face of Chinese government disapproval and pressure after an American citizen’s exercise of free speech this month.”
The “American citizen” Cruz referenced in his Op-Ed is, of course, is Daryl Morey — the Houston Rockets general manager who sent a simple seven-word tweet earlier this month voicing his support for the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Almost instantly, Morey’s tweet sparked a firestorm around the world.
The NBA’s initial response to the incident drew widespread backlash, too, in which the league described the tweet simply as “regrettable.” Commissioner Adam Silver has since clarified his comments, insisting that he is ready to accept any consequences of the league “adhering to our values.” China, on the other hand, has pressured the league to fire Morey and effectively banned the Rockets from the country. The financial consequences from the incident have been “substantial,” Silver said, and may teams have even explored scenarios where the salary cap drops 10 to 15 percent as a result.
Cruz has been extremely outspoken about this issue throughout the month, and even signed a bipartisan letter with seven other lawmakers from all sides of the political spectrum — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) — urging the NBA to suspend its activities in China until their boycott of both the league and the Rockets ends.
“Morey’s tweet is just one example of how far the Chinese Communist Party will go to advance its authoritarian regime and silence anyone daring to speak against Chinese oppression and for freedom,” Cruz wrote.
Cruz used his Op-Ed to draw support for the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019, a bill that he is trying to get passed in the Senate that would solidify American policy on Hong Kong and allow the United States to impose “sanctions on those responsible for human rights violations in Hong Kong.”
While the issue this past month has been largely centered around the NBA, Cruz said it goes far beyond that — and far beyond sports in general.
“I have long condemned U.S. companies that turn a blind eye to, and in some cases carry out, the Chinese Communist Party’s censorship, oppression and human rights atrocities, and I will continue working with my colleagues to hold these companies accountable, and ensure that they are not importing Chinese oppression to the United States,” Cruz wrote.
“The American people expect more from the companies they trust and the sports leagues they cheer. American sports leagues and companies alike should embrace the courage of Jackie Robinson’s legacy. They may just find themselves paving the way for a cultural revolution worth fighting for.”
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