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Chamath Palihapitiya, a minority owner of the NBA's Golden State Warriors, said in a podcast that he co-hosts and that aired on Saturday that "nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs."
"Nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs, OK? 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 in remarks that gained attention on Monday - Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
"I'm just telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line," he said.
The NBA has come under steady criticism for its business in China, which the Biden administration has sanctioned over its abuse of the predominately Muslim Uyghur ethnic minority. Sanctions imposed in December followed reports of suppression and human rights abuses by China against the Uyghurs.
"I think that human rights in the United States is way more important to me than human rights anywhere else on the globe. And I think that we have an abysmal track record of taking care of colored men and women in this country, and so I have zero patience and tolerance for white men blathering on about shit that happens outside your own backyard," Palihapitiya said during an appearance on the "All-In" podcast Saturday.
Palihapitiya said he does care about climate change and the potential economic ramifications of China invading Taiwan, but that the U.S. should focus on its own problems over the Uyghurs' situation.
"Fix your own inside backyard because you guys are the ones ... you are uniquely in a position of power in a way the rest of us are not. And so when you guys clean up the inside then we can go and fix the outside," Palihapitiya concluded.
In a statement posted on Twitter on Monday, Palihapitiya sought to walk back his earlier remarks, saying he realizes he came "across as lacking empathy."
"As a refugee, my family fled a country with its own set of human right 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," he said.
The Warriors also sought to distance themselves from the comments in a statement on Monday.
"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 franchise said.
In a tweet, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas.) called out Palihapitiya for his remarks, which he said were "#Shameful."
"NBA takes a bold stance: slavery doesn't matter. concentration camps don't matter. torture & murder doesn't matter. 'We don't care,'" Cruz wrote in a tweet.
"ALL that matters to them is more $$ from CCP so NBA millionaires & billionaires can get even richer."
Updated at 7:18 p.m.