Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., asks a question during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing titled “Police Use of Force and Community Relations”, in Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., June 16, 2020. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS

THE NEUTRAL ZONE

Adrian Wojnarowski, a popular NBA reporter, was recently suspended after emailing an expletive to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) after Hawley condemned the NBA and its relationship with China in a personal press release. Hawley compared the NBA’s newly approved social justice messages to the censorship decisions of the Communist Party of China for not including language that could support U.S. military, U.S. police, civil liberties in Hong Kong, and Muslim Uighurs. Wojnarowski quickly responded, “F*ck You.” ESPN released a statement that Wojnarowski’s behavior was “completely unacceptable” and soon after, Wojnarowski publicly apologized to Hawley and called the incident a “regrettable mistake.” 

Hawley has since claimed that Wojinarowski’s suspension was “a distraction from the NBA’s relationship with China” and suggested he would support a subpoena of NBA commissioner Adam Silver in order to investigate the league’s relationship with China. The league also received backlash after customers discovered they couldn’t print “FreeHongKong” when ordering custom gear on its online store. Some of the approved messages now allowed on the back of jerseys include terms spurred from nationwide demonstrations against institutional racism, including “Black Lives Matter”, “I Can’t Breathe”, “How Many More”, and “Education Reform”.  

Following the announcement of Wojnarowski’s suspension on Saturday, NBA players like LeBron James and Myles Turne voiced their support for the journalist by posting #FreeWoj on Twitter. Wojnarowski has not posted since his apology last Friday night, but it was stated that he will not be reporting from the NBA bubble this week in Orlando as previously expected. 

MEDIA PERSPECTIVE

#FreeWoj Is Trending Because ESPN Won’t Let NBA Twitter Have Nice Things – The Root – 7/13/2020
There’s a time and place for proper decorum, but when a Republican senator trolls the NBA for “kowtowing to Beijing” and “withdrawing support” from the military, trust and believe that world-renowned NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski—affectionately known as “Woj” to those of us who eat and breathe basketball—is with the sh*ts.

ESPN suspends Adrian Wojnarowski, its star NBA reporter, after profane email to senator – Washington Post – 7/12/2020
ESPN suspended its top NBA reporter, Adrian Wojnarowski, after he sent a profane email to Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), multiple people familiar with the situation said Sunday. Wojnarowski had been scheduled to travel to Florida soon to cover the restart of the NBA season, but he will not make the trip as originally planned. He is still expected to be part of ESPN’s coverage of the resumption of play at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex outside Orlando — but at a later date.

LeBron James Tweets #FreeWoj in Support of Suspended NBA Reporter, Silent About Effort to ‘Free Hong Kong’ from Chinese Oppression – Breitbart – 7/13/2020
On Sunday, NBA star LeBron James Tweeted “Free Woj” in response to ESPN’s suspension of NBA reporter Adrian Wojnarowski, who replied “F*ck You,” to a critical email from Republican Senator Josh Hawley about the NBA’s relationship with Communist China. Still, LeBron is entirely silent about the millions in Hong Kong being oppressed by China, James’ multimillion-dollar business partner.

ESPN Reprimanding Adrian Wojnarowski Is A Mistake – Forbes – 7/13/2020
It is understandable why ESPN admonished Adrian Wojnarowski for his profane reply to Sen. Josh Hawley. But that doesn’t make it right. The network caved to its disingenuous distractors. […] It is understandable why ESPN admonished Adrian Wojnarowski for his profane reply to Sen. Josh Hawley. But that doesn’t make it right. The network caved to its disingenuous distractors.

INFLUENCER PERSPECTIVE

Gerry Callahan on Twitter, 7/13/20: ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski gets 2-week suspension for saying “F*ck you” to a US senator and LeBron, Jemele and the usual blue check marks jump to his defense. Because the senator is Republican and “F*ck you” is such a witty retort. Plus, AOC just keeps getting dumber.

Michael Holmes on Twitter, 7/13/20: So #FreeWOJ is trending on Twitter (thanks Lebron!) after ESPN suspended their #NBA scoop machine Adrian Wojnarowski for being rude to a Senator in an email.

Hugh Hewitt on Twitter, 7/13/20: Suspending @wojespn is a terrible reaction from @ESPN, which throttles speech –however vulgar, stupid and revealing of the NBA’s “Page Six”– and sidesteps the questions @HawleyMO was asking. @Senator Hawley will join me this morning to discuss: https://t.co/f9NxYgiFXd 

Arthur Delaney on Twitter, 7/13/20: It is interesting that Josh Hawley has decried “the police with their tactics of brutality and oppression” in Hong Kong but in his NBA letter dismissed Black Lives Matter as simply “anti-police protests”

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