Longtime NBA star David West is accusing a group of lawmakers of using NBA players as pawns in a propaganda campaign targeting China.
Conservative senators including Josh Hawley, Marco Rubio and Tom Cotton have publicly called out the league since its high-profile crackup with China over a pro-Hong Kong tweet posted last year by Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey.
Those senators and other China hardliners say the league caved when it should have supported Morey's free speech.
But West says he reached out to some NBA players to caution them that those urging them to support Morey might have motives other than the professed liberation of Hong Kong protesters.
"When Daryl Morey, he was with the Houston Rockets, he made comments about Hong Kong earlier in the year. ... I got on the phone with a bunch of NBA guys, and I was like 'Don't let them pull you into this bullshit, because it's the Iraq war-, weapons of mass destruction-type propaganda again," West recently told Danny Haiphong of Black Agenda Report.
The issue is more complicated than how it's presented in US media, West explained.
"In the late 1940s, when China got its independence -- you know, people don't even know that in our country. People don't even understand that China was colonized for 108 years, or whatever it was, and don't realize that that's what Hong Kong is about -- it's about colonization."
West, a two-time All-Star and two-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors, lamented the lack of understanding about China among Americans, and denounced anti-China hawks as "warmongers."
"The only people talking about China are these warmongering hawks who are using antiquated and outdated manifestos -- or whatever these guys are reading, I mean these guys are reading colonial manifestos. I mean come on man, it's plain as day. The idea that these sort of old tricks will work, or will help us in any way -- the idea that isolationism is going to help us in any way. There's 300 million people in the US only. And just for context, the Chinese basketball community is 300 million people."
The NBA's rift with China was back in the headlines recently, when Hawley accused NBA Commissioner Adam Silver of "kowtowing" to China and censoring conservative-leaning messages from players' jerseys during the league's restart at Disney World in Orlando, Florida.
ESPN reporter Adrian Wojnarowski was suspended two weeks for replying to a press release from Hawley's office with a profane two-word response.
West, a native of Teaneck, N.J. who later played his college ball at Xavier in Ohio, said the old strategy of 20th Century anti-communism will not be effective in this historical moment.
"We've tried to use these red-scare tactics, and we've tried to use the propaganda to keep nations at bay, but it's not going to work against a deliberately organized country like China. And we've got to accept that. We've just got to accept that we are in a different time in global history -- not just American history."
The 39-year-old West, who retired after winning the NBA title with the Golden State Warriors in 2018, said a trip to China opened his eyes to the real China, as opposed to how it is presented in US media.
"As people in the world, as Americans and people in American society, we have been misled.
"We can no longer feed the idea that people want to be in America or want to be Americans, just because of who we are. The veil has been ripped off."