Dan Le Batard Has Strong Takes on NBA, China, Woj, and ESPN

The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz spent a segment discussing the story about Adrian Wojnarowski, Senator Josh Hawley, and the NBA and China. Outkick has been at the center of this story -- Senator Hawley tagged Outkick when he shared the screenshot of Woj's "Fuck you" email, Clay Travis interviewed the senator after it happened, and I broke the news that Woj was suspended from ESPN for sending the email.

Here is the segment:

In the Le Batard segment, his co-host Jon "Stugotz" Weiner quipped that he was "aroused" by Woj's email, and they did a bit where producer Billy Gil read Woj's apology and ESPN's statement in a dramatic voice. Following that, at about the 4:20-mark of the video above, Le Batard had a soliloquy in which he discussed his thoughts on the matter. Here's a transcription so the context is not lost:

"I found it interesting that NBA players are saying Free Woj and I guess what they're doing is taking the part of the note about Black Lives Matter because they've all been suspiciously silent on the subject of China. It's not China that's getting them upset. One of the things that I think is totally fair, whatever your criticism is of the NBA or ESPN, on this subject totally fair because that's the intersection of politics and sports.

I know the gates have broken open on what it is we can and can't talk about, but even when our policy was 'hey no politics, we don't talk politics around here' as a corporate policy ... Even when it was that -- that right there was the intersection of politics and sports. And, according to ESPN's own rules, you're allowed if politics and sports intersect. And everyone got real scared of the money.

Everyone's got their hands in China's pockets. Everyone in America that's a Fortune 500 is making a whole lot of money in China and the suspicious silence on this is pretty deafening. So any criticism you want to file on that front, have at it because I feel like it's deserved. You see what happens with the Washington name when money gets involved. Sometimes you get power, and sometimes you get cowardice as it relates to 'am I gonna lose money.'"

Le Batard continued:

"China is paying a whole lot of people a whole lot of money, and so the NBA did look ugly in the way that it seemed like -- and you know that I'm Son of Exiles Guy -- it felt like we were choosing money over free speech. We were choosing money over democracy. It felt like that was what was happening over there. And the NBA, with all the money in the world -- this was pre-virus -- says 'no no we want to keep making the money.' You didn't hear it all over our network either. I understand that part of the senator's letter.

And, if you're Adrian Wojnarowski, if you're any of us, your name on your email is ESPN. You're basically putting that message on corporate letterhead. It's understandable that the company wouldn't want that in any way. I don't see the Free Woj argument. If Woj knows he's wrong, if the company knows he's wrong, that's not the way you talk to people in a professional manner on company letterhead, what's the Free Woj argument? Woj knows he deserved to be punished here."

In a previous segment, in which he had started to talk about Woj but got cut off when Stugotz had the answer to an earlier question about the Washington Generals' record versus the Harlem Globetrotters, Le Batard marveled that LeBron joined the #FreeWoj movement considering how aggressively Woj used to write about him. I made a similar observation about that on Sunday.

As I've written a few times now, there is an irony here in that Wojnarowski is now thought of as a sympathizer with China -- he liked the Daryl Morey tweet that supported Hong Kong protestors, was attacked by bots and received some death threats, and lost a ton of money when his show was pulled off China's airwaves.

You might think it's surprising to hear Le Batard speak out like this but he has been consistent over the years as the son of parents who fled Cuba about freedom of speech and anti-repression.

This isn't the first time Le Batard has broached the topic of the NBA and China -- on ESPN's Highly Questionable, Pablo Torre asked rhetorically if players would be allowed to wear jerseys that said Free Hong Kong -- but this segment was an interesting dissection that included thoughts on his own employer's role in covering this story.

Written by
Ryan Glasspiegel grew up in Connecticut, graduated from University of Wisconsin-Madison, and lives in Chicago. Before OutKick, he wrote for Sports Illustrated and The Big Lead. He enjoys expensive bourbon and cheap beer.