The backlash extended to other basketball figures. James Harden, one of the best players in the N.B.A and a Rockets star, apologized to China and was roundly criticized. Other figures, like Kerr, who is typically outspoken on politics, declined to comment. “It’s a really bizarre international story and I don’t know what to make of it,” Kerr said. “So it’s something I’m reading about just like everybody is but I’m not going to comment further than that.”
Popovich, however, praised Silver’s response on Tuesday, saying: “He came out strongly for freedom of speech today. I felt great again. He’s been a heck of a leader in that respect and very courageous.”
Popovich followed up by throwing a shot at Trump. “Then you compare it to what we’ve had to live through the past three years, it’s a big difference. A big gap there, leadership-wise and courage-wise,” Popovich said.
Stephen Curry, the Warriors star, joked to reporters that he had to “welcome Steve to the club.” Curry himself has been a past target of Trump’s ire. But besides that, Curry declined to weigh in, calling it “an interesting situation” and adding, “I don’t know that history well enough to kind of speak on it or to form an opinion yet.”
Trump’s own comments on Hong Kong have been limited. In August, Trump said in a tweet, “China is not our problem, though Hong Kong is not helping.” He followed up with, “Of course China wants to make a deal. Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first!” He also referred to President Xi Jinping of China as a “great leader” and the next day said, “If President Xi would meet directly and personally with the protesters, there would be a happy and enlightened ending to the Hong Kong problem. I have no doubt!”
Last week, Trump tweeted a congratulatory message to China: “Congratulations to President Xi and the Chinese people on the 70th Anniversary of the People’s Republic of China!”
It is not surprising that Trump, known for punching at his critics harshly, would bash Kerr and Popovich, given their past comments about him.