NBA Deals With China Differently Than With Bathroom Bill, Ex-Governor Says

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Pat McCrory, who faced an NBA boycott as North Carolina governor over his state’s “bathroom bill,” has accused the pro basketball league of hypocrisy after it apologized to China for a team manager’s since-deleted tweet supporting Hong Kong.

The National Basketball Association’s apologies to China contrast with its 2016 boycott of North Carolina after McCrory signed the Legislature’s bill requiring people to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate.

“I see hypocrisy,” McCrory told The Charlotte Observer. “They wanted to involve themselves with North Carolina commerce and an election, while not setting the same standard for China.”

The NBA moved its 2017 All-Star Game out of Charlotte, North Carolina, because of the state’s new bathroom law, citing what it called moral principle. Transgender activists opposed the law, gaining corporate support.

“The NBA cannot choose the law in every city, state, and country in which we do business, [but] we do not believe we can successfully host our All-Star festivities in Charlotte in the climate created by HB2,” the league’s statement at the time read, using legislative shorthand for the new law. 

McCrory, a Republican, narrowly lost his 2016 reelection bid to Democrat Roy Cooper, blaming the defeat on the controversy over the bathroom bill. He left office in January 2017.

The NBA’s efforts, along with other boycotts, also were factors in the eventual rescinding of the law, widely known as HB2, later in 2017. 

McCrory told the Observer that he talked about the NBA’s weakness in the face of Chinese authoritarianism during the boycott. 

“I told the [NBA] commissioner they’ve got a lot of business in China,” McCrory said. “But they’ve got a lot of sponsors there, and that would cost them hundreds of millions.”

The Chinese government objected to a pro-Hong Kong tweet Oct. 4 by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, threatening to withdraw sponsors and cancel exhibition basketball games along with NBA coverage.

The original tweet, reading “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” could not be seen in China because the communist government bans Twitter.

In response, however, the NBA issued two apologies, one in English and the other in Chinese. 

The English apology said the league recognizes that Morey’s expressed views “have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”

The NBA’s apology in Chinese said: “Extremely disappointed in Morey’s inappropriate statement. No doubt he’s severely hurt the feelings of Chinese fans.”

McCrory said he thought the NBA boycott of North Carolina was really about sponsorships at stake if NBA All-Star Weekend had been held in the state.

“They were losing some sponsorships; they told me that flat-out on the phone,” the former governor said. 

Now, critics say the NBA seems to be applying censorship to its fans.  

In Philadelphia, Wells Fargo Center security officers removed a married couple who held a “Free Hong Kong” sign from Tuesday night’s game between the 76ers and the Guangzhou Loong Lions of the Chinese Basketball Association, The Washington Post reported.

At a Washington Wizards game Wednesday night at Capital One Arena in the nation’s capital, security officers confiscated signs from several fans that supported Hong Kong and the Uighurs, a Muslim minority that China’s government persecutes.  

Wizards spokesman Scott Hall said security took the signs under a longstanding Capital One Arena policy, which states: “Items may not be constructed or displayed in a manner that may obstruct the view of other guests, interrupt the experience of other guests, or create a safety hazard, [and] items may not be commercial or political in nature.”