Sen. Josh Hawley blasts NBA for pulling custom gear following ‘Free Hong Kong’ uproar

July 17, 2020

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., slammed the NBA for pulling custom gear from its online store following the backlash the league received for blocking “Free Hong Kong” to be printed on its apparel.

On Monday, the NBA was swept into controversy after a viral video showed that the online store could not process orders that used the text “FreeHongKong.” Hours later, the store’s operator Fanatics reversed what it suggested was a technical error that prompted the phrase to be “inadvertently prohibited.”

However, days after the incident, customers cannot find customizable apparel on both Fanatics and the NBA’s online store. And returning to pages of specific jerseys showed that the products had been “discontinued.”

NBA PULLS CUSTOM GEAR FROM ONLINE STORE FOLLOWING ‘FREE HONG KONG’ CONTROVERSY

An NBA spokesperson confirmed to Fox News that ordering personalized apparel has been “disabled.”

“Based on attempts to include violent, abusive and hateful messages on personalized NBA jerseys, the personalization feature has been disabled on NBAStore.com,” the spokesperson said. “Fanatics, the operator of our online store, is conducting a further review to establish appropriate safeguards and ensure that this feature is not used to promote violence, hate or abuse of any kind.”

Hawley blasted the league’s decision.

Rather than let fans order #FreeHongKong jerseys @nba kills custom gear altogether,” Hawley tweeted. “Now about the slave labor that helps make all those @nba @nike product lines…”

The Missouri senator has been a fierce critic of the NBA and its close ties to China.

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The subject of the NBA’s relationship to China was renewed last week after Adrian Wojnarowski, who covers the NBA for ESPEN, sent Hawley a profane response to the lawmaker’s criticism of the league’s decision of “pre-approved, social justice slogans” while “censoring support” for law enforcement and criticism of the Chinese Communist Party.

Wojnarowski apologized to Hawley, and ESPN later suspended the reporter.