Politics & Government

Pittenger tells NBA’s Adam Silver the league has engaged in ‘unmistakable hypocrisy’

dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver debated by letter last week over the decision to move the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, with Pittenger charging the league had engaged in “unmistakable hypocrisy.”

Pittenger, a Republican, sent Silver a letter July 21 after he said he met with constituents from China. The constituents told Pittenger about allegations the Chinese government is harvesting organs from religious minorities.

In his letter, Pittenger asked why the NBA is preparing to sell tickets to preseason games it will soon play in China.

“Is the NBA implying China’s abhorrent violation of human rights is acceptable, while North Carolina saying men shouldn’t use the women’s locker room is a bridge too far?” Pittenger wrote. “What is the NBA’s true priority? The unmistakable hypocrisy is clear to me.”

He then asked Silver to justify what Pittenger said was a “gross lack of judgment and moral clarity.”

Earlier this month, the NBA moved the All-Star Game over its concern about House Bill 2, which nullified Charlotte’s expanded nondiscrimination ordinance that added legal protections for gay, lesbian and transgender individuals. HB2 also requires that people use the bathroom in government buildings that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate.

Pittenger’s complaints about the NBA are similar to those of Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, who said the league’s decision was “total (politically correct) BS.”

Silver wrote back Tuesday.

“The NBA recognizes that it cannot choose the law in every country, state, and city in which it does business,” Silver wrote. “We can, however, make business judgments as to where we will be able to conduct our events successfully.”

He said HB2 has “created a nationwide controversy, and widespread litigation, with Charlotte as its geographic focal point. Under these circumstances, it is our business judgment that we cannot successfully conduct our All-Star Game in Charlotte in 2017.”

After the NBA moved the game, USA Today reported that Golden State Warriors president, Rick Welts, who is gay, was instrumental in the league’s decision. Welts told owners that he wouldn’t feel comfortable having the game in Charlotte.

Pittenger wrote back Thursday. He said “liberal activists” are more concerned with allowing men into women’s locker room than “standing up for female dissidents in China who face unspeakable sexual abuse and torture.”

Pittenger also asked why the political left wasn’t upset when the NBA first announced in 2015 Charlotte would host the game. Earlier that year, the City Council rejected the nondiscrimination ordinance in a 6-5 vote.

There wasn’t much outcry over that vote. One reason is that supporters of the ordinance asked that council members reject it because it didn’t include full legal protections for transgender individuals.

Steve Harrison: 704-358-5160, @Sharrison_Obs

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