Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo, issued an invitation to sit with ESPN CEO James Pitaro in the midst of the fiery clash that erupted Friday with NBA sports network reporter Adrian Wojnarowski.
Hawley’s office sent a press release detailing a letter it planned to send to NBA commissioner Adam Silver, criticizing the league’s decision to limit the messages players can wear on their uniforms to ” social justice slogans pre-approved ”while“ censoring support ”for the police and criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.
Hawley wrote in the letter to Silver that “the freedom of expression in the league seems to stop at the limit of the sensitivity of your commercial sponsors.”
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Wojnarowski, who is arguably ESPN’s most prominent reporter and posts so much NBA news on Twitter that his posts were dubbed “Woj Bombs”, apparently did not like Hawley’s post.
“Fk you,” replied Wojnarowski, according to Hawley.
“Do not criticize #China or express your support for law enforcement at @espn. It makes them really crazy, ”Hawley tweeted with an apparent screenshot of the response.
Wojnarowski apologized to the senator and ESPN issued a statement on the matter.
“I was disrespectful and made a regrettable mistake. I am sorry for the way I behaved and I immediately ask Senator Hawley to apologize directly, “he wrote. “I also have to apologize to my colleagues at ESPN because I know that my actions were unacceptable and should not think about any of them.”
“This is completely unacceptable behavior and we do not tolerate it,” said the press release. “It is inexcusable for anyone working for ESPN to respond as Adrian did to Senator Hawley. We are dealing directly with Adrian and the details of these conversations will remain internal. ”
Hawley responded to ESPN’s statement, telling the network that he did not want an apology from Wojnarowski.
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“Don’t apologize to @wojespn. He just says what he really thinks. Call @NBA. You know, your job, ”Hawley tweeted.
The senator later revealed that “lobbyists” from ESPN and Disney were trying to reach him, but said he only wanted to speak with the boss of the network.
“My phone rings with lobbyists from @espn, from @Disney, the work,” wrote Hawley. “Let’s simplify things. I invite ESPN CEO Jimmy Pitaro to Washington. My desk. Let’s sit down and discuss ESPN, #China, @NBA. Look forward to his response. ”
ESPN did not immediately respond to Fox News’ request for comment.
The NBA came under fire last year after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted pro-Hong Kong rhetoric just before the Chinese league streak between the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets. The league felt the immediate backlash.
Morey posted subsequent tweets to try to stop the bleeding while Rockets star James Harden apologized for the tweet. But in vain.
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China began cracking down on the NBA almost immediately, with Chinese sportswear brands having suspended or severed ties to the Rockets. The Communist government has also banned broadcasts of the league’s pre-season games in the country and canceled NBA Cares events and media availability before the exhibition games between the Lakers and the Nets.
Silver supported Morey’s right to freedom of expression, but regretted the result. The players remained silent during their stay in mainland China, as did the most outspoken critics in the league against President Trump, opting either to “learn more” about the situation – or to take more photos on the fly. White House.
Critics of the NBA’s uniform policy have questioned whether the NBA would allow messages of support to protesters in Hong Kong.
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According to The Undefeated, the list of allowed phrases on NBA uniforms includes: Black Lives Matter; Say their names; Vote; I can not breathe; Justice; Peace; Equality; Freedom; Enough; Power to the people; Justice Now; Say his name; Sí Se Puede (Yes, we can); Release; Look at us; Hear us; Respect us; Love us; Listen; Listen to us; Get up; Ally; Antiracist; I am a man; Speak Up; How much more; Group economy; Educational reform; and mentor.
Hawley asked the NBA commissioner to answer five questions: whether the NBA will censor pro-military or pro-police statements; if it is true that the sentences approved for display on the jerseys do not include messages in support of the victims of the Chinese Communist Party; whether the NBA will censor any message showing its support for the victims of the Chinese Community Party; how the league plans to defend players who speak out against China; and whether the league will condemn China for trying to silence the players.
Brian Flood and Ryan Gaydos of Fox News contributed to this report.