Vice President Mike Pence took a swipe at Nike and the NBA in a speech criticizing China’s record on trade and human rights.
Pence singled out the shoe company for removing Houston Rockets merchandise from stores in China after the team’s general manager angered the Chinese government with a tweet supporting protesters in Hong Kong.
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He said the NBA was acting like a “wholly-owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime” for failing to stand up to the government’s criticism of Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey.
He said Nike was “checking its social conscience at the door” for betrayed Morey over the tweet, which read: “Fight for Freedom, stand with Hong Kong.”
“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 as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime.”
“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,” he continued.
“Nike stores in China actually removed their Houston Rockets merchandise from their shelves to join the Chinese government in protest against the Rockets general manager’s seven-word tweet: ‘Fight for Freedom, stand with Hong Kong.’” Pence said.
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The vice president spoke Thursday at the Wilson Center in Washington as the Trump administration and the Chinese government try to negotiate a trade deal.
He sounded an alarm about China’s influence campaigns and its crackdown on free speech and other rights in Hong Kong.
The Associated Press contributed to this article