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After “Propaganda” Speech, GOP Lawmakers Question NBA Relationship With China

Florida lawmakers on Friday joined an effort questioning the NBA’s cozy relationship with communist China.
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Florida lawmakers on Friday joined an effort questioning the NBA’s cozy relationship with communist China.

GOP Sen. Rick Scott and Republican Reps. Byron Donalds of Naples and Greg Steube of Sarasota were among a dozen lawmakers who wanted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to account for a top Chinese communist official broadcasting a message to fans at a Washington Wizards game in January.

According to The Spectator, China Foreign Minister Qin Gang issued a video entitled “Happy Chinese New Year to DC family” at the Wizards Jan. 21 game against the Orlando Magic.

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“It was a continuation of China using American sporting events as a means of exerting its soft power, and yet another stark example of the existential challenge that the United States faces in its struggle to outmaneuver the Chinese Communist Party — even in its own capital city,” The Spectator noted.

Qin is a regular at Wizards games, and has even been allowed onto the court to shoot baskets.

“Qin,” the report added, “has been denying the widely reported genocide of China’s Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang for over ten years, calling the accusations ‘big lies of the century.’ He also threatened war with the United States and Taiwan as recently as last year.”

At the time of the January speech, GOP Rep. Mike Waltz of St. Augustine told The Spectator, “It’s disgraceful the NBA and Wizards would allow a genocide-denying official who is threatening global security such a platform. I hope the China Select Committee zeroes in on the NBA’s addiction to Communist China.”

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That seemed to be the purpose of Friday’s letter.

Led by Texas Republican Rep. Troy Nehls, Scott, Donalds, Steube and the others demanded Silver explain why he allowed China to broadcast “propaganda” at the Wizards’ game.

“While a message like this may be perceived as an innocent gesture at face value, it is a blatant exertion of soft power at a venue in the epicenter or our nation’s capital and gives the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] a platform to disseminate their messaging to a national audience,” the lawmakers wrote.

They acknowledged that Chinese New Year tributes are common across the country. But, they added, “they have not featured prominent propagandists” like Qin.

“It is of grave national security concern that by advancing partnerships with the PRC [People’s Republic of China], the NBA only further appeases the CCP and emboldens them to further human rights abuses and threaten our national security.

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The lawmakers demanded that Silver explain whether China paid the NBA for Qin’s message or if the NBA “willingly broadcast CCP propaganda.”

They also questioned Silver about what the NBA would do “to denounce the serious human rights abuses of religious and ethnic groups in China, and support players who speak out against the CCP.”

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