The National Basketball Association’s (NBA) online store prohibited people from ordering customizable T-shirts with the phrase ‘FreeHongKong’ printed on the back to support the former British colony’s democracy movements.
As reported by the Daily Wire, sports commentator Clay Travis posted a video on Twitter showing that when he tried to name the garment “FreeeHongKong,” the system would not allow it. However, this was not the case when he changed it slightly to “FreeHongKonu,” including the same number of characters.
The Daily Wire managed to verify that when trying to buy a personalized T-shirt with the phrase “FreeHongKong” the autocomplete message was displayed as follows: “We cannot customize this item with the text you have entered. Please try a different entry.”
Meanwhile, The Washington Free Beacon tried some other alternatives such as “Beware of Jews,” “End of Taiwan,” “defund police,” and “Abolish Cops,” among others, showing that such messages were still allowed.
Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) wrote, “Of course—@NBA Incorporated doesn’t dare offend the paymasters in #Beijing!”
Now the @NBA won’t even permit FANS to purchase customized jerseys saying #FreeHongKong, but you can buy jerseys blasting cops! #China calling the shots w/ @NBA corporate pic.twitter.com/E6PbTBcCvx
— Josh Hawley (@HawleyMO) July 14, 2020
Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) wrote on Twitter: “More evidence of the @NBA’s shameful cowardice and unwillingness to stand up for human rights in China. This is mind-boggling. The NBA and its players have chosen profits over human rights. They’re siding with Xi and the CCP over those fighting for their freedom.”
More evidence of the @NBA’s shameful cowardice and unwillingness to stand up for human rights in China. This is mind-boggling.
The NBA and its players have chosen profits over human rights. They’re siding with Xi and the CCP over those fighting for their freedom. https://t.co/H0HSQRIqSW
— Rick Scott (@ScottforFlorida) July 13, 2020
“It’s not like the players can put whatever they want on the back of the jersey. NBA corporate has approved a handful. And, predictably, they have nothing to say about anything related to China,” Daily Caller reported.
On Monday morning, Hawley told the Senate that he hoped to begin hearings for NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on the financial ties between the basketball league and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
On June 27, sports reporter Shams Charania revealed via Twitter that the NBA hoped to allow players to carry a social justice message printed on their jerseys.
Hawley subsequently sent a letter to Silver on July 5, questioning the league’s proposal to promote social justice messages on players’ jerseys and questioning the NBA’s intention to promote politically motivated messages.
As the Daily Caller reported, in 2019, Silver faced criticism after several basketball league players convicted Houston Rockets manager Daryl Morey of supporting human rights protesters in Hong Kong.