Trump rips NBA for ‘pandering to China,’ but says league has to work out dispute on its own

President Donald Trump participates in a formal signing ceremony for the U.S.-Japan Trade Agreement at the White House in Washington, October 7, 2019.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

President Donald Trump criticized the NBA for what he called “pandering” to China on Wednesday even as he declined to take a stance on the sports league’s dispute with Beijing.

“They have to work out their own situation. The NBA’s — they know what they’re doing,” Trump told reporters. “I watched the way that [Golden State Warriors coach Steve] Kerr and [San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg] Popovich and some of the others were pandering to China, and yet to our own country, it’s like they don’t respect it.” 

The NBA has tried to contain the economic damage in its massive China market this week after Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong. Even as organizations and businesses in China cut off their relationships with the NBA, critics have said the league has put cash over human rights by not adequately defending Morey’s comments. 

A spokesman for the NBA did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on the president’s remarks.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

— CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger contributed to this report

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