Chinese netizens urge anti-China US senator to keep politics out of sports
Published: Aug 03, 2020 05:44 PM

Photo: IC

In a tweet posted on Sunday, Hawley sent pictures of his customized Houston Rockets jersey, with "FREEHONGKONG" printed where the player's name should be. 

Hawley said he was paying homage to Daryl Morey, the Houston Rockets General Manager who voiced support for secessionist elements in Hong Kong Special Administrative Region which led to a backlash in China last year. Hawley also called China an "imperialist, colonizing, slave state" in the tweet.

As the NBA season resumes, the league and its players' association agreed on a list of social justice slogans to be displayed on players' jerseys. Such messages include "Black Lives Matter (BLM)," "I Can't Breathe" and "Equality," most of which are closely connected to the ongoing social movement in the US. 

Earlier in July, Hawley challenged the NBA's political position, questioning the league's decision to restrict messages that players can wear on their jerseys while censoring criticism of China. 

The NBA's problems with China started with Morey's tweet in support of the Hong Kong riots in October 2019. Chinese fans generally had an emotional connection to Houston, as Chinese basketball star Yao Ming played for nine years in the Houston Rockets at the NBA. Despite the later apology, Morey triggered outrage among Chinese people, and Rockets games have been pulled from air in China since then. 

With repeated provocations through his anti-China speech, Hawley has become a source of taunting for Chinese netizens on Weibo, China's biggest microblogging platform, with netizens urging him to stop politicizing sports. "It is a complete disgrace that US politicians still use the NBA as a political tool," one netizen commented. Another commentator wrote, "It is a joke that he mixes sport with politics."

Twitter netizens also expressed distrust toward Hawley. One netizen asked, "Can we go back to items of more concern to your constituents?"