Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz got into a heated argument on Tuesday after the Texas lawmaker blamed this year’s dip in NBA Finals ratings on Black Lives Matter messaging. The NBA’s first three Finals games between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat have been the least watched Finals games in the league’s history, according to Sports Media Watch.
Cruz, whose state of Texas is home to three NBA teams, including the Mavericks, posted a tweet saying he is unsurprised about the low ratings, and claimed he hasn’t watched a single game of the Finals for the first time in years. Cruz ended the tweet with the hashtag “GoWokeGoBroke.” Cuban took notice and criticized the senator for seemingly reveling in the NBA’s down year.
“A US Senator with 3 @NBA teams in his state, employing thousands of people and he is rooting for their businesses to do poorly,” Cuban tweeted. “This is who you are @tedcruz. Every minute of your life, this is exactly who you are.”
Cruz responded to Cuban and pinned the decline in viewership on the NBA’s “concerted effort to (1) insult their fans & (2) turn every game into a left-wing political lecture,” an apparent reference to the league’s decisions to paint Black Lives Matter on the court and allow players to feature messages for racial equality and justice on their jerseys.
Cuban shot back, saying Cruz was “full of sh*t.”
“You haven’t watched a game of the finals, how would you know what is being said or done? Since when is a desire to end racism an insult to anyone or political? And you don’t think using #GetWokeGoBroke is a partisan insult?” he tweeted.
The back and forth continued as Cruz accused Cuban of “loving Chinese money” more than his fans, a reference to the controversy that arose back in October when Houston Rocket general manager Daryl Morey tweeted in support of pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. NBA officials and players alike attempted to downplay Morey’s tweet after the Chinese government took issue with the message and businesses in mainland China severed ties with the Rockets and the NBA. This prompted some to criticize the league for appearing to value money over principles of free speech.
In response, Cuban said, “shame on me for putting American Civil Rights and Justice, creating jobs, growing our economy and healthcare reform over twitter proclamations.”
The NBA, like many other sports leagues, was forced to postpone and reschedule a large portion of the 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite featuring some of the NBA’s marquee stars such as LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Jimmy Butler, Finals ratings have sunk to historic lows. Sunday’s game three — the first ever Finals game to compete with the NFL on a Sunday — was the lowest rated and least watched Finals game ever, according to Sports Media Watch. The previous record was set in game two of the 2020 Finals, which broke the record set by game one. Prior to 2020, however, the lowest rated Finals game ever was game two of the 2003 Finals between the then-New Jersey Nets and the San Antonio Spurs, per Sports Media Watch.
But the NBA’s ratings struggles this year are hardly unique. The Stanley Cup Finals, Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes, Indy 500 and golf’s U.S. Open have all experienced double-digit ratings declines, according to Sports Media Watch.
Game four of the NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Heat is set for Tuesday night. The Lakers are up two games to one in the best-of-seven series.