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There are few things the NBA enjoys less than finding itself in the crosshairs of a culture war squabble, but that is exactly what it got over the weekend when Chamath Palihapitiya, a minority owner of the Golden State Warriors, took to his podcast to say, “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs.”
Palihapitiya, a billionaire entrepreneur and former Facebook executive, said he cares about climate change, the economic implications of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, and other issues that more directly affect Americans. But as for the forced imprisonment and torture of Uyghur Muslims in China, “it is below my line,” he said.
If anyone’s interested in an extended version of what’s been trending@chamath @Jason @DavidSacks @friedberg #UyghurGenocide #chamath pic.twitter.com/qiw5vVKpkZ
— tomhaverford (@tomhaverford24) January 18, 2022
It did not take long for his comments to ricochet around the NBA, which has long adopted a cautious tone toward the Chinese government. On Monday, the Warriors released a one-sentence statement saying Palihapitiya’s views “certainly don’t reflect those of our organization” without specifying what he said. In his own statement, Palihapitiya acknowledged that he came across in the podcast “as lacking empathy” and said “human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere.”
Palihapitiya is far from an NBA figurehead—most fans are probably hearing his name for the first time now—but he has already become a target for Republican China hawks. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said NBA commissioner Adam Silver must force “woke billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya to sell his share” of the Warriors or “be exposed” as “hypocrites supporting religious genocide.” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said a failure to oust Palihapitiya would show “complicity for Communist China and their crimes against humanity.”
What the Chinese government is doing to the Uyghurs is a crime…