The NBA's initial response after a team executive tweeted his support for Hong Kong protesters was "absolutely disgraceful," Fox Business Network host Charles Payne said Wednesday on "America’s Newsroom.”
Amid growing backlash against NBA owners for siding with deep-pocketed Beijing powerbrokers over one of their own employees – who was rebuked for a pro-Hong Kong protest tweet – the league's commissioner released a statement Tuesday morning seeking to clarify the NBA's relationship with the communist country.
The statement from Adam Silver, released before a news conference in Tokyo, said the league “will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues” — a popular sentiment, but one that appeared at odds with the actions of high-ranking NBA leaders in the aftermath of Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey tweeting about Hong Kong, the autonomous Chinese territory in the middle of contentious demonstrations over a host of human rights issues.
The Chinese government canceled a Brooklyn Nets event on Tuesday and the Chinese state broadcaster (CCTV) reported that the country will no longer air preseason games played in China due to Morey’s tweet supporting the protestors in the Hong Kong riots.
Payne said that there needs to be a distinction between "Chinese people" and the "Chinese communist government."
He explained further that while the Chinese people love the NBA, the communist government is trying to justify what they’re doing in Hong Kong by vilifying Morey and the most popular sport in the country, the NBA.
"Maybe the NBA could grow a spine right now," said Payne, as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver prepares to travel to Shanghai.
Fox News’ Ryan Gaydos contributed to this report.