US Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday sharply denounced the NBA for not speaking out more forcefully on China as he vowed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters.
In a wide-ranging speech on US-China relations, Pence lashed Beijing over its trading behavior, assertive military posture and treatment of religious minorities but also said the United States ultimately wanted a “constructive” relationship.
“The United States does not seek confrontation with China. We seek a level playing field, open markets, fair trade and a respect for our values,” he said at the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars.
He reserved his strongest language for the National Basketball Association — whose players have often clashed at home with President Donald Trump — as he waded forcefully into a row over whether corporate America has sacrificed values in their search for profit in China.
“Some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of other peoples,” Pence said.
“In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of that authoritarian regime,” he said.
Pence hailed the mass movement that has erupted in Hong Kong seeking to preserve the city’s semi-autonomous status after Beijing attempted to allow extraditions into the mainland.
“We stand with you. We are inspired by you,” Pence said.
“We urge you to stay on the path of non-violent protest. But know that you have the prayers and admiration of millions of Americans,” he said.
The NBA controversy erupted when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted “Fight for freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
China, a major basketball market, retaliated by ending sponsorships and canceling broadcasts of pre-season games held in the country. The NBA then dropped all media events of the tour but later said it supported free speech.
Pence’s denunciation of players was likely a reference to Lakers superstar LeBron James, who took issue with Morey’s tweet on Hong Kong.
James has previously criticized Trump, accusing the stridently anti-immigration leader of unleashing hate in the United States.
Pence also criticized footwear giant Nike for pulling Houston Rockets merchandise in China. Nike has a sponsorship deal with Colin Kaepernick, the American football quarterback who has been without a job after refusing to stand for the national anthem in a protest against racism.
“Nike promotes itself as a so-called ‘social-justice champion,’ but when it comes to Hong Kong, it prefers checking its social conscience at the door,” Pence said.
– Support for Taiwan –
Pence’s speech was billed as a follow-up to a hard-hitting address he gave a year earlier in which he accused China of improperly seeking to influence congressional elections to defeat Trump.
Pence renewed his assertion that China wanted Trump to lose power. But he also repeated Trump’s hope that the world’s two largest economies can come to an accord to end a mounting trade war that has triggered tariffs on billions of dollars in goods.
But he declared dead the optimism of successive US presidents that trade will “transform Communist China’s authoritarian state into a free and open society.”
Pence also took a firm tone on Taiwan after two small states, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands, became the latest to pull away from the dwindling number of states that recognize Taipei instead of Beijing.
“The international community must never forget that its engagement with Taiwan does not threaten the peace, it protects the peace on Taiwan and throughout the region,” Pence said.
“America will always believe that Taiwan’s embrace of democracy shows a better path for all the Chinese people,” he said.
Pence, however, made clear that the United States still recognizes Beijing and not Taiwan, a self-governing democracy where China’s nationalists fled in 1949 after losing the mainland’s civil war.
Nevada GOP activist reveals how he ‘caucused for Bernie’ to help Trump win: ‘It would be a dream election’
Conservative activist Chuck Muth said that he temporarily switched parties to vote for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders in the Nevada caucuses.
Muth, who spoke to the Las Vegas Journal-Review while wearing a red Keep America Great hat, explained that he had crossed over to “vote for the weakest candidate possible of the Democrats.”
“It was kind of a way of demonstrating how absurd I think it is to have same-day registration as well as early voting for a caucus,” Muth explained. “So my wife and I last Sunday went to an early voting site, we changed parties right there on the spot. We caucused for Bernie.”
Soledad O’Brien shames 1980 ‘Miracle on Ice’ hockey team for photo-op with Trump while wearing MAGA hats
In an early Sunday morning tweet, award-winning journalist Soledad O'Brien expressed her dismay with members of the 1980 Gold Medal-winning Olympic hockey team for celebrating their historic win over the then-Soviet Union -- dubbed the "Miracle on Ice" -- with Donald Trump while wearing "Make America Great Again" hats.
According to O'Brien, seeing them hand Trump a photo-op filled her with "disappointment."
Taking to Twitter, she wrote, " Ugh.... so disappointed by the @1980MiracleTeam . I loved watching that game as a kid with my dad. Loved watching the movie with my kids. To see them on a stage, in maga hats—kinda crushing I have to say."
‘Nice deflection, Mr President’: Adam Schiff busts Trump for trying to blame him for his leaky administration
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) took a shot at President Donald Trump on Sunday morning after the president tried to blame him for the leak describing a classified meeting lawmakers had with an intelligence official who warned the bipartisan group that the Kremlin is trying to help the president get re-elected.
As the president prepared to leave the White House for India, he told reporters that Schiff was to blame for the leaked meeting story, with the president insisting he personally had not been briefed on the report explosive report.
Responding to a 'Meet the Press" clip of the president making his accusation, Schiff tweeted back: "Nice deflection, Mr. President. But your false claims fool no one. You welcomed Russian help in 2016, tried to coerce Ukraine’s help in 2019, and won’t protect our elections in 2020. Now you fired your intel chief for briefing Congress about it. You’ve betrayed America. Again."