President Donald Trump on Wednesday waded into the controversy regarding the NBA and pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Last week, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the Hong Kong protesters, who are generally at odds with the government in mainland China.
The NBA, which has a significant fan base — and thus considerable business interests — in China, quickly distanced itself from Morey’s tweet and essentially apologized for him to that country’s communist government.
In the eyes of many, the NBA had sided with China’s totalitarian government over pro-freedom protesters in an effort not to lose money.
Trump was asked about the controversy by a reporter at the White House on Wednesday. In his response, he criticized Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr and San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, both of whom have thus far refrained from criticizing the Chinese government in the same manner that they frequently attack Trump.
According to the president, both men are “pandering to China.”
“I watch this guy Steve Kerr, and he was like a little boy, he was so scared to even be answering the question,” Trump said. “He couldn’t answer the question, he was shaking.”
“He didn’t know how to answer the question.”
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) October 9, 2019
“He’ll talk about the United States very badly,” Trump added.
As Fox News reported, Kerr has come under fire for declining to comment about the China situation, instead simply calling it a “really bizarre international story.”
Trump also called out Popovich, who has praised NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s statement on the China issue but held back in criticizing the Chinese government.
Popovich even took a dig at the president, telling reporters, “[Silver] came out strongly for freedom of speech. I felt great again. He’s been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous.”
“Then you compare it to what we’ve had to live through the past three years, it’s a big difference. A big gap there, leadership-wise and courage-wise,” he said, according to The Washington Post.
Like Kerr, Popovich is a frequent Trump critic, referring to the president in 2017 as a “soulless coward.”
“I watched Popovich, sort of the same thing, but he didn’t look quite as scared actually,” Trump said Wednesday. “But they talk badly about the United States, but when it [comes to] China, they don’t want to say anything bad.”
The president further contended that both coaches and others in the NBA are “pandering to China.”
“They have to work out their own situation. The NBA is, they know what they’re doing,” Trump said. “But I watched the way that, like, Kerr, Popovich and some of the others were pandering to China. And yet to our own country it’s like they don’t respect it.”
“What a difference,” Trump said. “Isn’t it sad? It’s very sad.”
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