Get your jokes about stopped clocks and blind squirrels ready. Ted Cruz, Texas' Observer-beloved junior senator, is actually on the right side of a controversial issue.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Cruz, along with a Star Wars cantina-like menagerie of politicians from both sides of the aisle — Sen. Tom Cotton, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Ben Sasse among them — signed on to a letter chastising the NBA for its reaction to a pro-Hong Kong tweet sent by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.
"It is outrageous that the Chinese Communist Party is using its economic power to suppress the speech of Americans inside the United States," the group writes. "It is also outrageous that the NBA has caved to Chinese government demands for contrition."
"(F)ight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong,” is all that Morey tweeted, referencing ongoing pro-democracy protests on the island. For most Americans, the Rockets official's statement would've been no big deal, but Morey works in the NBA, a league that has deep financial ties to mainland China.
The league's first reaction was to apologize for the tweet.
“We recognize that the views expressed by Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable," the league said. "While Daryl has made it clear that his tweet does not represent the Rockets or the NBA, the values of the league support individuals’ educating themselves and sharing their views on matters important to them. We have great respect for the history and culture of China and hope that sports and the NBA can be used as a unifying force to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.”
After an avalanche of criticism, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver walked the statement back Tuesday.
"(T)he NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way," Silver said, in part. “Basketball runs deep in the hearts and minds of our two peoples. At a time when divides between nations grow deeper and wider, we believe sports can be a unifying force that focuses on what we have in common as human beings rather than our differences.”
Despite Silver's clarifications, Cruz, Cotton, Ocasio-Cortez, et al., want the league to suspend activities in China until sponsors and broadcasters controlled by the Chinese government end the boycott of the league that they started after Morey spoke out.
If the NBA took such a position, it would leave the Dallas Mavericks in a tough spot.
As the Observer detailed in a 2017 cover story, the Mavericks have cultivated and nurtured a large fan base in China, frequently relying on state-run social networks to spread the gospel of Dirk Nowitzki and, more recently, Luka Doncic.
Despite the public attention, Mavs owner Mark Cuban, a man who usually has no problem relaying an opinion, has not made a public statement about Morey or his comments. In response to an email from The Washington Times — Cuban didn't return the Observer's email, which is unusual — the entrepreneur only said, "ll refer you to Adam silvers [sic] comments.”
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