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Sen. Josh Hawley in June. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) criticized the NBA's decision to limit political messages players can wear while on court in a letter to league Commissioner Adam Silver on Friday.

Why it matters: Hawley accused the league of censoring players' support for law enforcement officers and the military, as well as their criticism of the Chinese Communist Party's human rights abuses in Hong Kong and against Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang region.

Background: The NBA on July 3 released a list of pre-approved political messages that players can wear on the back of their jerseys for the upcoming season restart in Orlando, CBS Sports reports.

  • The list of 29 political messages includes social justice slogans like "I Can't Breathe" and "Black Lives Matter" and broad values such as "Justice," "Peace" and "Equality."

What they're saying: "The truth is that your decisions about which messages to allow and which to censor — much like the censorship decisions of the CCP — are themselves statements about your association’s values," Hawley said in the letter.

  • "If I am right — if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than to celebrating its home nation — your fans deserve to know that is your view. If not, prove me wrong. Let your players stand up for the Uighurs and the people of Hong Kong. Let them stand up for American law enforcement if they so choose."

The big picture: The league has struggled to balance its progressive brand and America's democratic ideals with the influence of China's massive market, Axios' Kendall Baker reports.

  • The NBA received public backlash in 2019 after Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted then deleted an image that read "Fight for Freedom. Stand for Hong Kong" in reference to the pro-democracy protests that had been occurring there for months.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian: The NBA's silence on atrocities in China, one of its most lucrative markets, is increasingly glaring.

Go deeper: China's influence operations are getting harder to hide

Go deeper

Updated Oct 12, 2020 - Sports

Los Angeles Lakers win 17th NBA title

The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and Anthony Davis after winning the NBA Championship. Photo: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and Anthony Davis led the team to a Game 6 106-93 triumph over the Miami Heat in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, to win a record-tying 17th NBA championship Sunday night.

The big picture: James' fourth championship — and his fourth NBA Finals MVP award — capped off a highly unusual season that was disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic. The game was the 260th of James' playoff career. This season was also notable for a sports walkout begun by NBA players over the police shooting of Jacob Blake and James leading a campaign to increase the number of poll workers in Black electoral districts.

Oct 13, 2020 - World

Chinese oligarch's company with ties to George W. Bush's brother plunges in value

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

On Friday, shares of Hong Kong Finance Investment Holding Group Ltd. plummeted, Bloomberg reported. The company is involved in real estate and natural resources.

Why it matters: Neil Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush, sits on the company's board as deputy chairman. Neil Bush's ties to Chinese-owned companies have drawn public scrutiny and once landed a super PAC supporting his brother Jeb Bush in hot water.

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.