January 18, 2022
-New York Times
The N.B.A.’s Golden State Warriors on Monday distanced themselves from a partial stakeholder in the team after he said “nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs,” the predominantly Muslim minority that has faced widespread repression in China’s western Xinjiang region.
Chamath Palihapitiya, a billionaire venture capitalist who owns a small stake in the Warriors, made the comments on an episode of his podcast “All-In” that was released on Saturday. During the podcast, Mr. Palihapitiya’s co-host Jason Calacanis, a tech entrepreneur, praised President Biden’s China policies, including his administration’s support of the Uyghurs, but noted that the policies hadn’t helped him in the polls.
Mr. Palihapitiya replied: “Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, OK. You bring it up because you really care, and I think it’s nice that you care — the rest of us don’t care.”
Later in the podcast, Mr. Palihapitiya, the founder and chief executive of the venture capital firm Social Capital and a former executive at AOL and Facebook, called concern about human rights abuses in other countries “a luxury belief.” He also said that Americans shouldn’t express opinions about the violations “until we actually clean up our own house.”
On Monday, the Warriors minimized Mr. Palihapitiya’s involvement with the team.
“As a limited investor who has no day-to-day operating functions with the Warriors, Mr. Palihapitiya does not speak on behalf of our franchise, and his views certainly don’t reflect those of our organization,” the team said in a statement.
In recent years, China has corralled as many as a million Uyghurs and other ethnic minorities into internment camps and prisons, part of what Chinese authorities say is an effort to tamp down on extremism. The sweeping crackdown has faced a growing chorus of international criticism; last year the State Department declared that the Chinese government was committing genocide and crimes against humanity through its use of the camps and forced sterilization.
Mr. Palihapitiya’s comments could be the latest chapter in what has become a fraught relationship between the N.B.A. and China, where the league hopes to preserve its access to a lucrative basketball audience. In 2019, a team executive’s support for pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong prompted a backlash from China in which Chinese sponsors cut ties with the league and games were no longer televised on state media channels. The league later estimated that it lost hundreds of millions of dollars.
On Monday, Mr. Palihapitiya, 45, who was born in Sri Lanka, moved to Canada when he was a child and now lives in California, said in a statement posted to Twitter that after re-listening to the podcast, “I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy.”
“As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human rights issues so this is something that is very much a part of my lived experience,” he said. “To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States or elsewhere. Full stop.”