The NBA comes under scrutiny in its relationship with Beijing after fans found out they couldn’t order “Free Hong Kong” jerseys from an official online store.
A viral video reportedly revealed the league’s apparent aversion to political sentiment, while its online jersey designer licensed “Free America,” “Free Canada” and “Free Mexico.”
Hours after the discovery, the officially partnered NBA store on Fanatics.com began allowing “Free Hong Kong” to be printed on jerseys.
The NBA has come under heavy criticism on social media for the alleged inconsistency amid renewed claims it bowed to payers in China, where there is a colossal market for the sport.
A Fanatics spokesperson said: “The phrase was inadvertently banned from our league online store sites and has now been corrected. Fans who wish to personalize it, as long as the text is within the 12 character limit , can do it.
The NBA said the error was on Fanatics’ side and affected several sports franchises in partnership with the store, not isolated from the basketball league.
Viral video revealed the league’s apparent dislike of political sentiment, while its online jersey designer cleared “Free America”, “Free Canada” and “Free Mexico”
This is the last consecutive rumble that began last week when Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO) wrote an open letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, who accused the league of hypocrisy in his stance towards the social justice.
The email was titled “Senator Hawley Blames NBA for Bowing in Beijing and Refusing to Support the US Army and Law Enforcement.”
Hawley made the apparent NBA decision to strictly limit the messages players can wear on their jerseys to a few pre-approved social justice slogans while censoring law enforcement or military support and any criticism. of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). ‘
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers prepares to shoot against the Orlando Magic in their 2007 NBA China Games exhibition basketball game, won by Orlando 90-86 at Qizhong Stadium in Shanghai. China is a hugely lucrative market for the basketball league
Last Thursday, ESPN revealed that the NBA will allow players to write social justice-themed statements and messages on their uniforms in the coming season.
The NBA and the players’ union have agreed on a list of messages that can be chosen to be displayed above the numbers on the back of their team uniforms.
The list includes phrases such as “Black Lives Matter”; “Say their names”; ‘Vote’; ” I can not breathe ” ; ‘Justice’; ‘Peace’; ‘Equality’; ‘Sufficient’; ‘Ally’; “Anti-racist”; and ‘How many more.’
Senator Hawley’s email sharing his letter blowing up the NBA drew a furious “F ** k you” response from ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski.
Wojnarowski was quickly reprimanded by the broadcaster and suspended from his duties.
“I was disrespectful and made an unfortunate mistake, I apologize for the way I behaved and immediately contact Senator Hawley to apologize directly,” Wojnarowski wrote.
ESPN also condemned the response and said “it is inexcusable for anyone working with ESPN to respond like Adrian did to Senator Hawley.”
“We are addressing it directly and the details of those conversations will remain internal.”
Lebron James, among other players, backed Wojnarowski with a #FreeWoj hashtag which was all the rage on Twitter.
But Senator Hawley rejected the NBA’s apology and claimed the debacle was simply a distraction from the bigger issue of China.
Senator Hawley wrote: “Don’t make @wojespn apologize. He just says what he really thinks. Call @NBA. You know, your job.
ESPN NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski (left) was reportedly suspended on Saturday after responding to an email from Senator Josh Hawley (right) “f *** you”
The NBA and the players’ union have agreed on a list of messages that can be chosen to be displayed above the numbers on the back of their team uniforms. On Twitter, Hawley questioned why the league wouldn’t include statements like “Support our troops” or “Back the Blue.”
Hawley, a Republican, sent a letter to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Friday with the message “Senator Hawley blames NBA for bowing to Beijing and refusing to support military and law enforcement American “. Two minutes later, Wojnarowski replied on his ESPN account from his phone with two words: “F *** you.”
The National Basketball Association and the league have discussed methods to promote messages of equality and police reform since the death of George Floyd, which sparked nationwide and global protests.
But the league’s membership in Black Lives Matter and its support for protests against police brutality have been criticized by conservatives who have accused teams and players of capitulating to China over similar statements of support for pro-police protests. democracy in Hong Kong.
The league banned all social justice phrases about China after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey received backlash from Chinese NBA partners last fall for tweeting support from protesters in Hong Kong.
The NBA backed Morey’s free speech rights, but the remark sparked an icy situation with China for the league with an estimated financial fallout of $ 400 million per Silver.
Hawley responded to ESPN, saying he didn’t want an apology from Wojnarowski. Instead, he urged the network to “call the NBA”
ESPN also released a statement on Friday saying Wojnarowski’s behavior was “unacceptable” and “inexcusable”
Wojnarowski posted an apology on his Twitter page saying he was “disrespectful” and “made an unfortunate mistake”
Silver said Chinese officials wanted Morey sacked for his tweet supporting anti-government protesters in Hong Kong, and the league flatly rejected the request.
Silver also said the league was already feeling “substantial” financial losses due to the Chinese reaction to Morey’s deleted tweet.
“Obviously, we have made it clear that the Chinese government, the parties we have dealt with, the government and the companies have asked us to fire him,” Silver said Thursday during an appearance at the Time 100 Health Summit in New York.
“We said, ‘There is no way that will happen. There’s no way we’ll even discipline him. ‘