Chamath Palihapitiya, who owns 2 percent of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, recently said on his podcast that “nobody cares” about the genocide of Uyghurs in China’s Xinjiang province, saying that his main concern is human rights violations in the U.S.
“Nobody cares about what’s happening to the Uyghurs, okay? You bring it up because you care and I think it’s nice that you care. The rest of us don’t care,” Palihapitiya said. “I’m telling you a very hard ugly truth,” he added. “Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line.”
When co-host David Sacks said that the Uyghur genocide was “not top of mind” for many people, Palihapitiya responded,
“That’s not caring. I care about the fact that our economy can turn on a dime if China invades Taiwan. I care about climate change. I care about America’s crippling and decrepit health care infrastructure. But if you ask me, do I care about a segment of a class of people in another country? Not until we can take care of ourselves will I prioritize them over us.”
Co-host Jason Calacanis said it was a sad state of affairs when people can’t care about global human rights. Palihapitiya said, “That’s a luxury belief. The reason I think that is we don’t do enough domestically to actually express that view in real tangible ways. So until we actually clean up our own house, the idea that we step outside our borders, with us morally virtue-signaling about someone else’s human rights record, is deplorable.”
His comments drew widespread criticism. Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott said,
“We’ve always known that the NBA & many of its owners are happy to put profits over people. Now @chamath is saying it plain as day: he doesn’t care that Communist China is committing genocide against the Uyghurs. He doesn’t care that millions are sent to forced labor camps. Communist China is imprisoning innocent people simply due to their Muslim faith & silence is appeasement.”
Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa, said, “American government, companies, and citizens have to speak with one voice against the CCP’s gross human rights abuses and hold them accountable.”
NBA player Enes Kanter Freedom, who has consistently taken a stand against the CCP’s horrific mistreatment of the Uyghurs, tweeted, “When @NBA says we stand for justice, don’t forget there are those who sell their soul for money & business. When genocides happen, it is people like this that let it happen.”
Palihapitiya responded to the backlash tweeting,
“In re-listening to this week’s podcast, I recognize that I come across as lacking empathy. I acknowledge that entirely. 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. To be clear, my belief is that human rights matter, whether in China, the United States, or elsewhere. Full stop.”
Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin called the tweet a non-apology which “says exactly zero about the Uyghurs and AGAIN draws a false equivalence between the GENOCIDE in China and human rights issues in the United States. Horrendous.”
In a statement, the Warriors said, “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.”
Uyghur-American lawyer Nury Turkel responded to the Warriors, “Good that you try to distance yourself from [Palihapitiya’s] genocide denialism. But say stop #UyghurGenocide loud and clear so we can see you aren’t merely giving lip service.”
Maybe there is a hint of reality in what Palihapitiya says. Many around the world pretend to care about the Uyghurs, but do they really? Of course, that is not the sentiment that Palihapitiya is personally expressing. Instead, he opts for a bold apathy about what’s happening in other countries, going so far as to say it’s deplorable for the United States to even call out genocide in China. Palihapitiya, a refugee that this nation took in, is comparing issues in this country to active and open genocide being waged by a brutal, totalitarian government. The only comparable horror in the U.S. is abortion, something Palihapitiya is not talking about.
While he is only a small investor, Palihapitiya certainly echoes the NBA’s China problem. It has built a reputation for staying silent on China’s many human rights abuses, whether that’s in Hong Kong, at the NBA’s camp for students, or in Xinjiang where the Uyghurs are being tortured, raped, forcibly sterilized, made to perform slave labor, and executed. Yet the league speaks loudly about supposed inequalities in America.
The United States has an obligation to speak out against the genocide taking place in China, and make no mistake, it is a genocide. One does not have to be an interventionist to oppose such a heinous crime. All you have to be is a human being who recognizes that evil flourishes when good people remain silent