ESPN has suspended popular NBA commentator Adrian Wojnarowski without pay after he sent a “f— you” email on Friday to U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) in an argument over the league’s relationship with China, the New York Post reported.
The duration of the suspension, first reported by the sports news site Outkick, remains unclear. The NBA is due to resume its season later this month as teams have been placed in a quarantine bubble at Walt Disney World.
Reps for Wojnarowski referred all inquiries on the matter to ESPN, which declined to comment.
On Friday, the network issued a statement condemning Wojnarowksi’s behavior and hinting at disciplinary action. “This is completely unacceptable behavior and we do not condone it,” the statement said. “It is inexcusable for anyone working for ESPN to respond in the way Adrian did to Senator Hawley. We are addressing it directly with Adrian and specifics of those conversations will remain internal.”
Wojnarowski also issued a public apology Friday. “I was disrespectful and I made a regrettable mistake,” he wrote on Twitter. “I’m sorry for the way I handled myself and I am reaching out immediately to Senator Hawley to apologize directly. I also need to apologize to my ESPN colleagues because I know my actions were unacceptable and should not reflect on any of them.”
Wojnarowski had sent his “f— you” response to an email from Hawley’s office criticizing the NBA over its ties to the Chinese government and calling on the league to allow players to wear messages supporting Hong Kong protesters in addition to other social-justice messages. Hawley referenced the league’s handling of the controversy last fall when Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of Hong Kong protesters and said the NBA was “sanctioning political messages.”
Hawley, a first-term senator who defeated two-term Democrat Claire McCaskill in 2018, has been among the league’s biggest detractors over its relationship with China, which was strained following Morey’s tweet. In recent weeks, China has enacted a national security law that removes the “high degree” of legal and political autonomy promised to the territory after it was handed over to China from the U.K. in 1997.