By Chuck Ross and Luke Rosiak
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio accused Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred of hypocrisy on Monday over the league’s relationship with a Chinese media conglomerate that has backed Beijing’s opposition to pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
“Since Major League Baseball now appears eager to use its ‘platform’ to demonstrate ‘unwavering support’ for fundamental human rights, will you cease your relationship with the Chinese Government?” Rubio wrote in a letter on Monday to Manfred.
The Republican accused Manfred of “woke corporate virtue signaling” for pulling this year’s All-Star game out of Atlanta in protest over a Georgia voting bill passed last month.
Manfred announced on Friday that the game would be moved to another city because of the law, which Democrats have claimed will decrease voter turnout.
The decision came days after President Joe Biden said he supported the idea of the MLB moving the game. Biden, who has referred to the Georgia bill as “Jim Crow in the 21st century,” has repeatedly falsely claimed that the law will cut the hours of operation at Georgia’s polling locations.
Rubio asserted that moving the All-Star game is “an easy way to signal virtues without significant financial fallout.”
“But speaking out against the Chinese Communist Party would involve a significant loss of revenue and being closed out of a lucrative market,” he wrote.
Rubio pressed Manfred over MLB’s relationship with Tencent, one of China’s largest media companies.
The Daily Caller News Foundation reported on Saturday that MLB extended a licensing agreement last Wednesday with Tencent that allows the conglomerate to air games through 2023. MLB formed the partnership with Tencent in 2018 as part of its push into Asian media markets.
Tencent has boycotted some NBA games since October 2019 because a league executive, Daryl Morey, tweeted in support of pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong.
Tencent stopped airing games for the Houston Rockets, where Morey served as general manager. The company also stopped airing Philadelphia 76ers games in December after Morey took a job with the team.
“Will Major League Baseball now end its engagement with nations that do not hold elections at all like China and Cuba?” Rubio asked Manfred.
“Will you end your lucrative financial relationship with Tencent, a company with deep ties to the Communist Party and [which] actively helps the Chinese Government hunt down and silence political dissidents?”
Rubio also asked Manfred whether he will remain a member of Augusta National Golf Club, the highly exclusive golf club that hosts the annual Masters golf tournament.
The club did not allow its first black member until 1990. It did not admit its first woman until 2012.
“I am under no illusion you intend to resign as a member from Augusta National Golf Club. To do so would require a personal sacrifice, as opposed to the woke corporate virtue signaling of moving the All Star Game from Atlanta,” Rubio wrote Manfred.
MLB has not responded to multiple requests for comment.
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