President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence enter the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House to make remarks August 5, 2019 in Washington, DC. 

WASHINGTON – Vice President Mike Pence called out Nike and the NBA, criticizing them and other American businesses operating in China for “muzzling not only criticism” of the Chinese government but even muting their “affirmative expression of American values.”

Citing reports that Nike stores in China removed Houston Rockets’ merchandise from their stores, the vice president said that while the company “promotes itself as a social justice champion,” they “check their social conscious at the door” when it comes to Hong Kong.

He then turned his attention to the NBA’s feud with Beijing since a Houston Rockets executive tweeted support for protesters in Hong Kong.

“And some of the NBA’s biggest players and owners, who routinely exercise their freedom to criticize this country, lose their voices when it comes to the freedom and rights of the people of China,” he said in a barely masked swipe at NBA superstar LeBron James. “In siding with the Chinese Communist Party and silencing free speech, the NBA is acting like a wholly owned subsidiary of that authoritarian regime.

The remarks were part of a policy speech Pence delivered Thursday on the U.S.-China relationship. It comes just over a year after another policy speech the vice president delivered at the Hudson Institute addressing the same topic.

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