The NBA’s uncomfortably sycophantic relationship with China (and its money) has officially drawn the ire of multiple GOP lawmakers — and it’s all thanks to the Lunar New Year.
To wit, back in January, The Spectator reported on how China stealthily went about “exerting its soft power” after a video aired during a Jan. 21 game between the Washington Wizards and the Orlando Magic. The Wizards were hosting the Magic at the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., with the home team ultimately winning 138-118.
During that game, a video aired during a break in the action where China’s new foreign minister, Qin Gang, made his first public comments in said role.
Chinese state media shared the video across social media, and you can view it for yourself below:
“Happy Chinese New Year to D.C. family,” Gang says in the video. “This is the Year of the Rabbit, which symbolizes kindness, elegance and beauty.”
It’s all perfunctory, benign stuff that anyone who has been remotely near any such New Year celebration has heard ad nauseam.
But there’s a reason that Spectator reporter Matthew Foldi — and, eventually, GOP lawmakers — described it as China flexing its “soft power.”
Anything more overt would be too obvious, especially in the nation’s capital. But gently easing propagandist Chinese messaging, wrapped up in cheerful New Year’s packaging? It’s the kind of subliminal messaging that would fly over the heads of most Democrats.
Republicans? It may have taken them until March to formally look into this, but they at least noticed something was amiss, which is far more than you can say about Democrats and leftists on most matters China.
Foldi followed up on his January report about Gang’s video on Friday, tweeting out that multiple GOP lawmakers had penned a formal letter to the NBA and commissioner Adam Silver expressing “grave concerns” about the whole situation.
Signed by multiple GOP heavy hitters, such as Texas Rep. Troy Nehls, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, (Foldi notes that former NBA star Enes Kanter Freedom also helped craft the letter, though Foldi’s tweets do not include an image of Kanter Freedom’s signature) the letter doesn’t mince words when it comes to its concerns with the NBA’s coziness with the Chinese Communist Party.
“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 of our nation’s capital and gives the CCP a platform to disseminate their messaging to a national audience,” the letter reads.
The letter also noted that Gang was a particularly concerning Chinese official to have on the video, given that it was only a little over a year ago that Gang told NPR that “military conflict” was on the horizon for the U.S. and China over the status of Taiwan.
What the letter failed to mention was that, in that same interview with NPR, Gang also callously denied the ongoing persecution of the Uyghur Muslims in western China, a maddeningly common trait among Chinese figureheads.
So, yes. Qi Gang does not appear to be a very nice person. Certainly not nice enough to have his messaging shared by the NBA with its young fans.
Fortunately, those aforementioned GOP lawmakers are trying to get to the bottom of this, listing off a number of questions that they want answered.
“Did the CCP, or any instrument of the CCP, pay the NBA to broadcast CCP propaganda during NBA games?” the first question asked.
“Did the NBA willingly broadcast CCP propaganda or was this a favor conducted by the NBA? Was there threat of retribution if the NBA declined?” the second question(s) asked.
“How does the NBA intend to denounce the serious human rights abuses of religious and ethnic groups in China, and support players who speak out against the CCP?” the last question asked.
Color this writer skeptical that the NBA will ever even try to answer those questions.
Why? Because they can’t.
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