WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff said Thursday that NBA protests over the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, are “absurd and silly” when compared with the league’s relative silence about human rights violations in China, where U.S. pro basketball has a large audience.
“If they want to protest, I don’t think we care,” Marc Short told CNN’s “New Day.”
His comments came the day after the NBA postponed three scheduled playoff games, with the Milwaukee Bucks kicking off the boycott by refusing to leave their locker room for the game against the Orlando Magic. The players are demanding that lawmakers act to address police brutality and racial injustice.
Players and teams from MLB, the WNBA, MLS and pro tennis sat out events Wednesday night, and NBA players and coaches met for nearly three hours to determine the next steps, including whether the season should continue.
“I don’t know that you are going to see the administration weigh in one way or the other. In my mind it’s absurd and silly,” Short said. “What you saw from the professional basketball association was a continued acceptance and … nonspeaking out against China’s continued abuse. Instead, they wrap their arms around them.”
President Donald Trump, who is to deliver his renomination acceptance speech Thursday evening at a scaled-back Republican National Convention, has made restoring “law and order” to cities a centerpiece of his campaign during a summer of sometimes violent protests following the death of George Floyd, a Black man whose killing by Minneapolis police in late May spurred national unrest.
Short also took aim at the NBA’s relative silence over human rights abuses in China, a key market for the league. The NBA last month faced scathing criticism from Republicans after an ESPN report that young participants in a league program in China were physically beaten by Chinese instructors and were not provided proper schooling.
Short also questioned why the league’s players and coaches have largely refrained from criticizing China’s human rights violations and from expressing support for Hong Kong. In a separate MSNBC interview Thursday, Short said the NBA’s “embraced the Communist Party.”
“There is a contrast to the positions they’ve been taking,” Short said.
The league and its players have been outspoken in calls for reforms in the aftermath of the killing of Floyd. The NBA has even incorporated its support for the Black Lives Matter movement into player uniforms and advertising. Trump has called that movement “a symbol of hate.”
“NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they’re able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially,’ White House senior adviser Jared Kushner said told CNBC on Thursday.
In a separate appearance before an event hosted by Politico, Kushner said that he planned to reach out to Los Angles Lakers star LeBron James, an outspoken advocate for policing changes.
“Look, I do think that peaceful protest has a place and it has importance,” Kushner said. “But I do think that what we need to do right now is make sure that we take the anger that people have and we have to move from slogans to constructive solutions.”
Sen. Tom Cotton, a Trump ally, told Fox News that the reaction by NBA players to the incident in Kenosha was “premature.”
”We shouldn’t be jumping to conclusions until we have all the facts,” said Cotton, R-Ark.
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