Long-time ESPN columnist and reporter Adrian Wojnarowski replied “F–k you” to a Friday press release from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.). Hawley’s email questioned the absence of NBA support for victims of the Chinese Communist Party, including the Hong Kong protestors, and the league’s allowance of anti-police social justice messages on jerseys.
Hawley further criticized the NBA for its collusion with China and its refusal to support law enforcement in the U.S. “Is the NBA prepared to allow its players to wear phrases in support of the United States, the American military, and U.S. law enforcement personnel, such as ‘God Bless America,’ ‘Support Our Troops,’ or ‘Back the Blue?” Hawley’s email read.
Hawley shared Wojnarowski’s crude response on Twitter with a caption reading, “Don’t criticize #China or express support for law enforcement to @espn. It makes them real mad.”
ESPN said Wojnarowski’s comment to Senator Hawley was “completely unacceptable, and we do not condone it.”
“It is inexcusable for anyone working at ESPN to respond in the way Adrian did to Senator Hawley,” ESPN said. “We are addressing directly with Adrian and specifics of those conversations will remain internal.”
Wojnarowski apologized in a statement, writing, “I was disrespectful, and I made a regrettable mistake. I’m sorry for the way I handled myself, and I am reaching out immediately to Sen. Hawley to apologize directly.” He continued, “I also need to apologize to my ESPN colleagues because I know my actions were unacceptable and should not reflect on any of them.”
Hawley, however, said he doesn’t want an apology. “Don’t make @wojespn apologize. He’s just saying what he really thinks. Call out the @NBA. You know, your job,” the senator tweeted.
Don’t make @wojespn apologize. He’s just saying what he really thinks. Call out the @NBA. You know, your job https://t.co/qLX5VsdO6R
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) July 10, 2020
Hawley told Outkick, “No, I don’t want an apology. I want ESPN to ask the NBA why they won’t let players stand up for America and be able to criticize China’s actions. But maybe ESPN won’t say anything because they benefit from the NBA’s global presence. Until ESPN speaks out, all they are really doing is enabling the Chinese Communist Party to stifle free speech in America.”
Sen. Hawley continued, “I think normal Americans get it, but the media and the corporate class want to look the other way. Normal, working Americans have understood at a gut level for years the threat from China, including the threat to our jobs. It’s the political establishment and the corporate class that kowtow to China.”
The NBA has made a reputation of bowing to the will of the Communist Chinese government in order to preserve their business relationship.
In October 2019, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey posted a tweet supporting Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, potentially jeopardizing the NBA’s business dealings in China. Chinese NBA sponsors responded to Morey’s criticism by suspending business ties. Under pressure from NBA executives and players, Morey reversed course and declared his love of China.
Following the incident, ESPN immediately instructed its staff to avoid discussing Chinese politics or Morey’s tweet, according to Deadspin.
Days later, during a Washington Wizards’ exhibition game against the Chinese Basketball Association’s Guangzhou Loong Lions, American fans and supporters of the Hong Kong protest movement held up “Free Hong Kong” signs. Security staff confiscated the signs.
One year ago, millions took to the streets of Hong Kong to fight for the formerly autonomous city’s liberties. As protests continue, the Chinese government has cracked down on Hong Kong freedom fighters. While they have received support from politicians on the American right who sympathize with citizens of Hong Kong, the NBA, an American corporation with deep financial ties to China, continues to suppress freedom of expression in order to preserve its economic interests.