NBA Draft

Warriors’ minority owner dragged for declaring the NBA’s stance on Uyghurs out loud

Chamath Palihapitiya wasn’t lying.
Image: Getty Images

“No one cares about genocide” is, to put it lightly, a concerning stance to take, but it is the stance that billionaire and Golden State Warriors minority owner Chamath Palihapitiya chose to espouse on his podcast this week.

The exact quote from the All-In podcast, addressing his co-host Jason Calcanis: “No one cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, OK? You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you really care, the rest of us don’t care.”

The Warriors quickly released a statement distancing themselves from Palihapitiya’s comments, writing that he “does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization.” Palihapitiya, whose ownership stake in the Warriors franchise amounts to two percent, also issued an apology, writing “I realize that I came across as lacking empathy” and “my belief is that human rights matter.”

Palihapitiya’s comments were obviously incredibly crass and dismissive, and his choice to double down on them when challenged by his co-host only served to make things worse. Had he framed the statement as a commentary on the IOC’s and NBA’s complicit silence on the matter, then the point likely would have been better received. But instead, listeners heard his own personal dismissal of what Amnesty International has labeled as “hundreds of thousands of Muslim minority men and women being subjected to mass internment and torture” since 2017. He didn’t say that world leaders didn’t care and should be doing something — it was that he himself did not care.

In December, President Biden signed the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which, according to the U.S. State Department’s press release, “gives the U.S. government new tools to prevent goods made with forced labor in Xinjiang from entering U.S. markets.” The Act passed with shocking ease through a bipartisan House and Senate last month, and the import ban on goods from Xinjiang will officially go into effect this June.

For the past few years, figures connected to the NBA have far more frequently made headlines for criticizing China’s human rights record. Celtics player Enes Kanter Freedom has frequently spoken out — to varying degrees of success — against the genocide of the Uyghur Muslims as well as other human rights violations in China. Chinese officials called for Daryl Morey’s termination after he tweeted in support of Hong Kong protests in 2019. The NBA has repeatedly all but taken Palihapitiya’s stance by refusing to support the statements of their athletes and executives. It literally achieved the impossible by somehow getting Ted Cruz and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez together to criticize its decision to rebuke Morey’s statement in the name of profit, as the Chinese market is huge for the NBA.

Essentially, Palihapitiya said the quiet part of the NBA’s stance out loud, if not officially representing them in that unfortunate moment. The IOC finds itself in a similar situation heading into Beijing, happy to overlook any and all red flags of human rights abuses (see: Peng Shuai) that could possibly hurt their profits from the Olympic Games. Should Palihapitiya be forced to sell his shares when he’s simply investing in an organization that has done everything they can to maintain an economic relationship with China in the face of their own representatives calling for change?

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