WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump said Thursday that the NBA has become like “a political organization,” criticizing the league the day after player protests over police brutality led to the postponement of playoff games.
Senior White House aides earlier had suggested that the protests were not constructive and were hypocritical considering the league’s relative silence about human rights violations in China, where U.S. pro basketball has a large audience. The president said in a radio interview this month that NBA players were “very nasty” and “very dumb” for kneeling during the national anthem to protest social injustice.
The Milwaukee Bucks kicked off the boycott Wednesday by refusing to leave their locker room for the game against the Orlando Magic. The players are demanding that lawmakers act to address police brutality and racial injustice. The NBA announced Thursday’s scheduled playoffs were postponed, but the league hoped to resume play Friday or Saturday.
“They’ve become like a political organization, and that’s not a good thing,” Trump told reporters Thursday, noting that the league’s ratings are down from previous seasons. “I don’t think that’s a good thing for sports or for the country.”
Trump, who was to deliver his renomination acceptance speech Thursday evening at a scaled-back Republican National Convention, has made restoring “law and order” to cities a centerpiece of his campaign during a summer of sometimes violent protests following the death of George Floyd, a Black man whose killing by Minneapolis police in late May spurred national unrest.
Earlier Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff said in a CNN interview that NBA protests spurred by the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin, are “absurd and silly” when compared to their response to ongoing to human rights violations in China.
The NBA last month faced scathing criticism from Republicans after an ESPN report that young participants in a league program in China were physically beaten by Chinese instructors and were not provided proper schooling.