Jared Kushner knocks striking NBA players over wealth: They're lucky to “take a night off from work”

Another administration official criticized the protest over racial injustice as “absurd and silly”

By Igor Derysh

Senior News Editor

Published August 27, 2020 2:53PM (EDT)

Jared Kushner and President Donald J. Trump (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
Jared Kushner and President Donald J. Trump (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House senior adviser Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of billionaire President Donald Trump, said NBA players who refused to play in protest of police brutality were "fortunate" to be wealthy enough to "take a night off from work."

The Milwaukee Bucks led a player strike on Wednesday following the shooting of Jacob Blake, the 29-year-old Black father who was shot in the back at point blank range by police in front of his young children, according to bystander video and family statements.

The NBA postponed all three playoff games scheduled for Wednesday. (Athletes from other sports sat out scheduled events, as well.) There were reports that some NBA teams had voted to continue the strike through the remainder of playoffs, but ESPN reported on Thursday that players had decided to resume games as early as Friday.

Kushner, a billionaire who took over his family's real estate empire when his father was sent to prison after pleading guilty to 18 counts of illegal campaign contributions, tax evasion and witness tampering, took a swipe at the players' wealth on Thursday.

"Look, I think that the NBA players are very fortunate that they have the financial position where they're able to take a night off from work without having to have the consequences to themselves financially," he told CNBC. "So they have that luxury, which is great."

Kushner, who praised Trump's record on criminal justice, said he was unimpressed by the players' activism.

"I think with the NBA, there's a lot of activism, and I think that they've put a lot of slogans out," he said. "But I think what we need to do is turn that from slogans and signals to actual action that's going to solve the problem."

Kushner said in a separate interview with Politico that "this country's seen enough of the protests and some of the negative things that can happen when the protests go too far."

"We're offering solutions with policy," he said. "The other side's doing a lot of complaining. What I'd love to see from the players in the NBA — again, they have the luxury of taking the night off from work. Most Americans don't have the financial luxury to do that."

Kushner added that he would be happy to meet with NBA superstar LeBron James, who recently partnered with other Black athletes to start an organization to help register Black Americans to vote.

"If LeBron James reached out to the White House — or we could reach out to him — we're happy to talk with him and say, 'Look, let's both agree on what we want to accomplish, and let's come up with a common pathway to get there,'" Kushner said.

Former NBA player Rex Chapman slammed Kushner for what he called his "silver spoon" after the remarks about players' wealth.

"These are grown men who have worked insanely hard to earn their jobs. Without rich parents," he tweeted. "Unlike Jared."

Other administration officials went further in criticizing the player protest.

"If they want to protest, I don't think we care," Mark Short, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, told CNN. "I don't know that you are going to see the administration weigh in one way or the other. In my mind, it's absurd and silly."

CNN anchor John Berman pointed out that Short's comment shows how "dishonest" Vice President Mike Pence was at the Republican National Convention when he claimed the administration supports "peaceful protest."

Former NBA player Chris Webber hit back at critics of the protest while covering the postponed games on Wednesday.

"If not now, when? If not during a pandemic and countless lives being lost — if not now, when? That's all I just want to hear," Webber said. "Don't listen to these people telling you, 'Don't do anything, because it's not going to end right away.' You are starting something for the next generation — and the next generation to take over."

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's senior news editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

MORE FROM Igor Derysh

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Aggregate Donald Trump Jacob Blake Jared Kushner Lebron James Marc Short Mike Pence Nba Politics Republicans Sports