Adrian Wojnarowski gave an appropriate response to a troll

July 12, 2020

When Adrian Wojnarowski received a press release from Missouri Senator Josh Hawley calling for the league to put conservative messages on player uniforms, he emailed back with two words: “Fuck you.” Now, the ESPN NBA reporter has been suspended.

You can go online and read a thousand takes on what happened, but I find it particularly exhausting because the initial exchange and subsequent burst of coverage only contained two honest words.

Read Hawley’s letter to the NBA. Ostensibly, it’s about telling the NBA to use its new rules about messaging on jerseys to stand up to China. But while the NBA reacted cravenly when Rockets GM Daryl Morey tweeted “Free Hong Kong” way back at the start of the season, the letter isn’t actually as concerned with doing right by those oppressed by the Chinese government as it is telling the NBA and its players they aren’t sufficiently American.

The strongest tell is when it says, “If I am right — if the NBA is more committed to promoting the CCP’s interests than celebrating its home nation — your fans deserve to know that is your view.” You see it? Hawley is telling the NBA that the messages on players’ jerseys ought to celebrate the United States, and his idea of celebrating the good ol’ USA is “Back the Blue” and “Support Our Troops.” Hawley’s letter implies the messages the NBA and its players association agreed upon do not celebrate the United States, with the clear subtext that therefore the NBA and its players don't appreciate this country.

Your mileage may vary on the offensiveness of asking a league of majority Black players to kowtow to police when the nation and many of those players are spasming in a public reckoning that police, as an institution, have mistreated and killed Black and Brown people for decades and decades with little to no repercussions. Your mileage also may vary on how offensive it is that Hawley sent his letter to the NBA and not the players, a classic “speak to the (white) manager” move if ever there was one.

Ultimately, I’m pretty sure Hawley isn’t actually concerned with affecting change with the NBA because if he was, he wouldn’t have resorted to the troll of insisting that players put “Back the Blue” on their jerseys. Instead, he would have kept things focused on China and giving the NBA an opening to seem like it was agreeing to something righteous.

Also, he wouldn’t have tagged who he did in his response to Wojnarowski, seeing as that outfit is dedicated to bad-faith arguments about how sports figures are only pretending to be liberal in order to make themselves look good — or something like that; it’s hard to tell sometimes what the actual complaints are.

As the Twitter machine did what it does, few noted that Hawley, the senator from Missouri, doesn’t have an NBA team in his state, and, well, openly fighting with journalists as a form of culture war is becoming his thing, it seems. Why did he send a letter to the NBA in the first place? Hawley’s track record suggests he was probing for something that would rile up his base, figured he’d try to play up the right-wing theme of anti-police protest as un-American activity, and, when Wojnarowski responded as he did, pivoted to more comfortable ground of decrying liberal elitism and media bias.

The most likely result of Hawley’s stunt, had Wojnarowski not replied, would have been nothing: No response from the NBA and very few people giving a damn in Missouri, especially since Covid-19 cases are on a dramatic upswing in the state. It looks like Hawley lucked out and got a bunch of attention, even if it's mostly #NBATwitter telling him he's a 💩🤡.

But in any event, I like to think Wojnarowski recognized Hawley’s message for what it is and reacted with an emotional tweet that happens to be the most appropriate response.

(Image: @DrGuru23.)

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P.S.: My family watched High School Musical 2 this week. I’ll withhold my broader opinion of the movie, except to note that the baseball scene is *chef’s kiss*. (The guy in the all-white outfit later suggests that he played in the Little League World Series!?!?!?!?)