Vice President Mike Pence offered a withering critique of Nike and the National Basketball Association in a Thursday speech, saying the sports apparel giant and pro-basketball league caved to Beijing pressure over comments made earlier this month by one of its officials in support of Hong Kong protesters.
Speaking in Washington, Pence ripped Nike Inc. for pulling Houston Rockets merchandise from its China stores after the general manager of the team, Daryl Morey, voiced support, in a now-deleted tweet, for the freedom of expression of antigovernment protesters in Hong Kong.
At the time, China lashed out against Morey and the NBA and the league initially expressed regret that Chinese fans were offended at the message.
The NBA’s commissioner, Adam Silver, has since said the league is “not apologizing for Daryl [Morey] exercising his freedom of expression.”
Still, Lawmakers have accused the NBA and Nike officials of prostrating itself to Beijing.
“In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of the authoritarian regime,” Pence said.
Shares of Nike were down 1% in Thursday afternoon trade but are up 23.3% so far this year, according to FactSet data. By comparison, the S&P 500 index and the Dow Jones Industrial Average are trading flat on the day but up 19.8% and 14.7% in the year to date, respectively.
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