When you're a billionaire, people tend to listen a bit more closely to what you have to say. Of course, it's unreasonable to think more money automatically makes people more intelligent and well-spoken—in fact, we've seen the opposite happen quite a few times—but that feeling still persists. If the dollars are there, so is the audience.
Chamath Palihapitiya, billionaire investor and Golden State Warriors minority owner, just had a crash course in this harsh reality.
During an episode of the "All-In with Chamath, Jason, Sacks & Friedberg" podcast, Palihapitiya participated in a discussion around the Uyghur genocide. For those who do not know. the U.S. has accused China of genocide while repressing the Uyghur minority—a largely Muslim region—of the Xinjiang region in China.
Palihapitiya, who served as an early Facebook executive and has invested in several startups through the Embarcadero Ventures venture capital fund, said the genocide doesn't concern him—and his words aren't sitting well with people.
"Let's be honest, nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs, okay?" Palihapitiya said. "You bring it up because you really care. And I think that's nice that you care. The rest of us don't care. I'm telling you a very hard, ugly truth, okay? Of all the things that I care about, yes, it is below my line."
Palihapitiya tweeted an apology, saying "important issues deserve nuanced discussions" and that he "come[s] across as lacking empathy." But not everyone is buying the apology.
Boston Celtics center Enes Kanter Freedom has been one of the league's most outspoken players on social injustices around the world. He shared the clip, adding "when genocides happen, it is people like this that let it happen."
who says "Nobody cares about what's happening to the Uyghurs"
When genocides happen, it is people
like this that let it happen
— Enes Kanter FREEDOM (@EnesFreedom) January 17, 2022
Palihapitiya's comments were also called out by human rights lawyer Rayhan E. Asat, who criticized Palihapitiya's statement as a non-apology because he "can not even acknowledge how his comment was hurtful to the #Uyghur community."
Palihapitiya chipped-in a little bit of money when the Warriors were acquired in for $450 million in 2010. His owns roughly 10% of the team today and he remains a board member. Let's say he chipped in $45 million in 2010. Today the Warriors are worth $5.5 BILLION. So that 10% stake is now worth $550 million – $100 million more than the team's entire value 12 years ago.
The Warriors released a statement saying Palihapitiya's views don't reflect those of the organization and claimed he was "a limited investor with no day-to-day operating functions."
Though Palihapitiya is facing backlash online, he hasn't yet seen any repercussions from any organizations he works with. However, with the Winter Olympics in Beijing less than a month away, the spotlight on China and its relations with Uyghurs, Hong Kong, and the United States will shine brighter.
With that added focus, perhaps people like Palihapitiya will be a bit more careful with their words.