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Golden State Warriors part-owner, billionaire Chamath Palihapitiya, creates stir with remarks about the Uyghurs

Trading On The Floor Of NYSE As Virgin Galactica Releases IPO
Chamath Palihapitiy on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on October 28, 2019.   Michael Nagle / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The NBA's Golden State Warriors have distanced themselves from executive board member and minority owner Chamath Palihapitiya after he repeatedly said he didn't care "about what's happening to the Uyghurs" on a podcast.

"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 San Francisco team said Monday.

Rights experts, witnesses and the U.S. government have said that more than one million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims are incarcerated in camps in China's Xinjiang province.

Beijing describes the sites as vocational training centers and has said that, like many Western nations, it's seeking to counter radical Islamic terrorism.

But the United States has described their treatment as genocide and, along with Australia, Britain and Canada, has planned a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Games over the issue.

Palihapitiya is a billionaire venture capitalist who owns 10% of the Warriors, CBS San Francisco points out.

The station says he was discussing U.S.-China policy on his "All-In" Podcast when he commented on a bill President Joe Biden signed in December that bans imports from the Xinjiang region unless there's proof they weren't made with forced labor. 

According to CBS San Francisco, in response to a co-host commenting on the Biden administration's position on Xinjiang, Palihapitiya said, "Let's be honest -- nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs. You bring it up because you really care, and I think that's nice that you care. The rest of us don't care.

" … I'm telling you a very hard, ugly truth. Of all the things that I care about, it is below my line."

When challenged by his co-hosts, he doubled down. 

"I care about the fact that our economy could turn on a dime, if China invades Taiwan," he said.

"But if you're asking 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."

In a statement, Palihapitiya later said, "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 (Sri Lanka) 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 tweeted.

CBS San Francisco says Palihapitiya's comments triggered a wave of harsh criticism on social media, including from NBA standout Enes Kanter Freedom, who added Freedom to his name after becoming a U.S. citizen last year. Kanter Freedom has been critical of the human rights policies of the government in his native Turkey for years.

"When @NBA says we stand for justice, don't forget there are those who sell their soul for money & business like @chamath the owner of @warriors, who says "Nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs" When genocides happen, it is people like this that let it happen. Shame!" he tweeted.

China has a record of freezing out sports personalities, teams and organizations critical of Beijing.

The NBA hasn't been shown on state broadcaster CCTV since a Houston Rockets chief executive tweeted his support for Hong Kong's democracy movement more than two years ago.

And Chinese Streaming service Tencent stopped showing games involving the Boston Celtics after a Celtic, Enes Kanter, branded President Xi Jinping a "brutal dictator" and condemned Beijing's policies in Tibet.

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