The US' National Basketball Association's (NBA) crisis with China over a pro-Hong Kong tweet has reached the White House where President Donald Trump accused the coaches of the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors for "pandering to China".
Speaking on the matter for the first time, Trump on Wednesday said that the two sides would have to "work out their own situation" but came down hard on Gregg Popovich and Steve Kerr, coaches of the Spurs and Warriors respectively, Efe news reported.
Kerr, who has been publicly critical of Trump and has expressed his opinion on several social issues in the US, declined on Monday to comment on last week's tweet by Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey in support of the ongoing anti-government protests in Hong Kong.
Trump tore into Kerr, saying that the eight-time NBA champion "was like a little boy who was so scared to be answering the question. He couldn't answer the question. He was shaking like, 'Oh, I don't know'".
"He didn't know how to answer the question. Yet, he'll talk about the United States very badly," Trump added.
Popovich also abstained from directly addressing the situation in Hong Kong, although he praised NBA commissioner Adam Silver for his stance in support of free speech.
"I watched Popovich do sort of the same thing. But he didn't look quite as scared, actually," Trump said.
"They'll talk badly about the United States, but when the talk's about China, they don't want to say anything bad. I thought it was pretty sad, actually.
"I watch the way that, like, Kerr and Popovich and some of the others were pandering to China and yet to our own country, it's like they don't respect it... Isn't it sad?" he added.
Meanwhile, Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry said that "from the league and China and just our presence there and the way we've been building the business it's an interesting situation" but added, "there's so much history involved and I don't know that history well enough to kind of speak on it or form an opinion yet".