The National Basketball Association has found itself the target of intense criticism across the political spectrum for kowtowing to the Chinese government after Houston Rockets general manager Darryl Morey expressed support for Hong Kong protesters. On the right, one of the loudest critics of the league’s apology to China has been Fox News host Laura Ingraham.
Apparently, for Ingraham, NBA stars should absolutely speak up on hot-button issues. But only on the topics she deems permissible.
Last year, Ingraham made headlines and inspired the title of LeBron James’ documentary when she called on the NBA mega-star to “shut up and dribble” instead of talking about politics.
Ingraham—who also once wrote a book called Shut Up and Sing—said during the February 2018 segment that James’ commentary about President Donald Trump was “barely intelligible” and complained that people were taking it “seriously,” demanding instead that he keep his political remarks to himself.
Though the Fox host’s comments echoed a common theme of right-wing commentary—that celebrities, musicians, and actors, most of whom skew liberal, should not talk politics—quickly sparked widespread backlash and near-universal condemnation.
But now, Ingraham is calling on NBA stars and coaches to get political and speak out against China. During a lengthy monologue on Monday night, the right-wing pundit lambasted the silence from some of the league’s most outspoken stars, notably taking issue with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who has been highly critical of Trump in the past.
“You’re an embarrassment, Gregg,” she exclaimed. “You have the audacity to lecture us on morality as your league is standing with one of the most repressive regimes in the world? Are you kidding me? Did he speak out today in support of Morey? I don’t think so, no.”
Ingraham also complained about basketball stars standing up for former NFL star Colin Kaepernik’s right to kneel during the national anthem, insisting that the players’ concerns for free expression has its limits as they “quickly groveled to their Chinese masters,” pointing to Rockets’ star James Harden claiming “we love China.”
Ingraham also took to Twitter to demand the athletes and coaches pipe up and make their voices heard. In a Monday evening tweet, she groused that they have been “conveniently silent” on Morey’s support of a democratic movement in Hong Kong.
After Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Tuesday that he had no comment about the China ordeal, the Fox News star retweeted Fox Sports personality Clay Travis’ declaration that Kerr is a “complete and total coward,” adding: “Steve Kerr, Gregg Popovich and all the other outspoken, anti-Trump, coaches in the @NBA suddenly find the question of opposing China’s brutal oppression ‘confusing.’”
Following the widespread outrage over the league’s initial apology to China—a statement that included criticism of Morey’s since-deleted tweet—NBA commissioner Adam Silver issued a much stronger statement on Tuesday, saying the league would not regulate the speech of its players, employees, or team owners.
While Chinese sponsors bolt from the league and Chinese state television has cancelled NBA game broadcasts, Silver noted Tuesday that it is “inevitable that people around the world” will have different viewpoints on certain issues and it’s not the league’s role to “adjudicate those differences.”