President Donald Trump has lambasted the head coaches of the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs for ‘pandering to China’ in the NBA’s simmering clash with the communist nation.
In remarks on Wednesday, Trump said that Warriors head coach Steve Kerr responded like a ‘little boy’ when asked whether the Chinese were wrong to pressure the NBA over Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey’s tweet supporting protesters in Hong Kong.
‘He was like a little boy, he was so scared to be even answering the question,’ Trump said of Kerr. ‘He didn’t know how to answer the question. And yet he’ll talk about the United States very badly.’
Kerr, normally outspoken on political issues and a strong critic of Trump, has come under fire for sidestepping the China row, telling reporters: ‘It’s a really bizarre international story … it’s something I’m reading about just like everybody is but I’m not going to comment further than that.’
In remarks on Wednesday, Trump said that Warriors head coach Steve Kerr responded like a ‘little boy’ when asked whether the Chinese were wrong to pressure the NBA
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich (left) and Warriors coach Steve Kerr (right) have both been Trump critics in the past. Now Trump accuses them of ‘pandering to China’
Trump also took aim at Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich — another outspoken critic of the president — who actually praised NBA Commissioner Adam Silver for his statement in support of free speech.
‘They have to work out their own situation. The NBA’s — they know what they’re doing,’ Trump told reporters.
‘I watched the way that Kerr and Popovich and some of the others were pandering to China, and yet to our own country, it’s like they don’t respect it.’
Following Trump’s remarks, Warriors star Steph Curry was pressed by reporters to comment on the controversy during a break at training camp.
‘From the league and China and, uh, just our presence there and the way that we’ve been building our business there, it’s an interesting situation because there’s so much history involved, and I don’t know that history well enough to kind of speak on it or form an opinion, Curry responded.
Curry also quipped about Trump’s remarks on his coach, Kerr: ‘I just heard about the Trump thing, I’ve gotta welcome Steve to the club.’
Warriors star Steph Curry was pressed by reporters to comment on the controversy during a break at training camp but declined to weigh in
Although Morey has since deleted it, the tweet caused the NBA a torrent of negative within the prized Chinese market, which is reportedly worth over $4 billion to the league
‘First and foremost, that’s kind’ve par for the course there,’ Curry joked, referring to Trump’s prior remarks insulting Curry for refusing to visit the White House after a championship season.
Chinese fury over Morey’s Hong Kong tweet has only grown, threatening the NBA’s extensive business in China, which is estimated to be worth at least $4 billion.
Chinese organizers on Wednesday cancelled a fan event on the eve of a NBA exhibition game in Shanghai, the latest fallout in the growing dispute.
The Shanghai Sports Federation said the cancellation of the fan event ahead of Thursday’s game between the Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers was due to the ‘inappropriate attitude’ of Morey and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
A Wednesday afternoon news conference with both teams was indefinitely delayed, organisers said. Outside the team hotel, workers tore down massive banners advertising the game, according to a Reuters witness.
The Hong Kong protests were sparked by opposition to a bill allowing extradition to mainland China, but have evolved into broader calls for democracy.
China has accused the West of stirring up anti-Beijing sentiment in Hong Kong. The NBA controversy also comes against the backdrop of a U.S.-China trade war that escalated after Washington imposed visa restrictions on Chinese officials on Tuesday.
Workers in multiple spots around Shanghai removed large roadside NBA promotional signs that were advertising a preseason game between the Lakers and Nets scheduled for Thursday
A worker removes a large poster from a building ahead of NBA Shanghai Game 2019 between Brooklyn Nets and Los Angeles Lakers at the Lujiazui Zhengda Plaza
Silver said on Tuesday the league supported Morey’s right to exercise his freedom of expression, further angering authorities and some fans in China and threatening the NBA’s business there, said to be worth more than $4 billion.
Morey deleted the tweet and apologised on Monday, but Chinese broadcasters, sportswear companies and sponsors have said they are reviewing their ties with the NBA, which has had a presence in China since 1992.
The NBA initially described the anger over Morey’s post as ‘regrettable,’ drawing criticism from U.S. politicians, who accused the league of putting its China business ahead of free speech.
Silver, speaking in Japan before a preseason game between the Rockets and Toronto Raptors, said it was not up to the league to regulate what players, employees and team owners said.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver (standing), speaking in Japan before a preseason game between the Rockets and Toronto Raptors, said it was not up to the league to regulate what players, employees and team owners said. Silver said on Tuesday the league supported Morey’s right to exercise his freedom of expression, further angering authorities and some fans in China and threatening the NBA’s business there, said to be worth more than $4 billion
On Wednesday, an editorial in the official English-language China Daily accused Silver of ‘brazenly endorsing Morey’s secessionist-supporting tweet’ and giving ‘a shot to the arms of the rioters of Hong Kong.’
‘If Silver thinks endorsing the indiscriminate violence the radical Hong Kong protesters are resorting to … is supporting freedom of expression, then he should think again,’ it said.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, asked in an interview with PBS about the NBA controversy, said American businesses were waking up to the risks of operating in China.
‘The reputational cost to these companies I think will prove to be higher and higher as Beijing’s long arm reaches out to them and destroys their capacity for them, their employees – in the NBA’s case teams members and general managers – to speak freely about their political opinions,’ Pompeo said.