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Mike Pence aide walks back comments about ‘absurd’ NBA boycott

A top Trump administration official characterized NBA players boycotting Wednesday’s slate of playoff games as “absurd” and “silly” before dulling the sharpness of his rhetoric in a subsequent interview.

Marc Short, the chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, made an appearance Thursday on  CNN’s “New Day.” During the interview, Short mocked the NBA players’ decision to boycott three playoff games originally scheduled for Wednesday night that were ultimately postponed.

“If they want to protest, I don’t think we care,” Short said, per The Hill. “If they want to say, ‘we’re not going to play more games,’ I don’t think that’s a position that you’re going to see us speak out on one way or another.”

Short later attempted to clarify his remarks during an interview on MSNBC. He claimed the context of his comments came from how the NBA has failed to stand up to China’s authoritarian government because of the league’s significant financial stake in the country.  

“There is a contrast to the positions that they’ve been taking,” Short said.

Short was not the only senior White House official to react unfavorably to the NBA player boycott. Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior White House advisor, said during an interview Thursday that it’s easy for NBA players to “take a night off from work” because of their wealth.

Kushner went on to say he intends to reach out to Los Angels Lakers superstar and outspoken social justice advocate LeBron James at some point Thursday. Odds are James is unlikely to warm up to the potential chat given his longstanding animosity for Trump and his administration.

Social activism targeting systemic racism, social injustice and police misconduct of course has played a role in the NBA’s restart in Orlando. The recent shooting of Jacob Blake by police officers in Kenosha, Wisc., unsurprisingly inspired outrage in the NBA bubble.

Player frustration over Blake, an unarmed Black man who was shot seven times in the back by officers in front of his children, boiled over Wednesday, leading to the postponement of all three playoff games scheduled for the day.

NBA players ultimately agreed Thursday to restart the postseason, per reports, but three playoff games scheduled for Thursday have been postponed. Play is expected to resume on Friday.