- In light of Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey publishing a tweet that supported protesters in Hong Kong, several Chinese companies have suspended operations with the Rockets and NBA.
- On Tuesday, Chinese state broadcasting network, CCTV, announced it would not broadcast two preseason games set to be played in China.
- NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, after being criticized for not supporting Morey, said on Tuesday that the league will not “regulate” what its members say and that he hopes China will look past the tweet to continue a burgeoning business with the league.
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In the wake of Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey publishing a tweet that supported protesters in Hong Kong, several Chinese companies have ended or suspended operations with the Rockets and NBA.
On Tuesday, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver told Japanese news outlet Kyodo that there has already been “economic impact” as a result of Morey’s tweet.
“There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” Silver said. “There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet.”
Morey’s tweet, which read “Fight for Freedom. Stand with Hong Kong,” included the symbol of one of the protest groups in Hong Kong. The tweet offended many mainland Chinese citizens.
Since Morey’s tweet, which he later deleted, several Chinese companies have severed ties with the NBA.
- Streaming platform Tencent said it would stop broadcasting Rockets games.
- The Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) suspended operations with the Rockets. NBA Hall of Famer and Chinese star Yao Ming is the president of the CBA.
- China Central Television (CCTV), the state broadcasting network in China, said it would stop broadcasting Rockets games.
- Chinese shoe company Li Ning suspended operations with the Rockets.
- Chinese shoe company Alta suspended operations with the Rockets.
- Shanghai Pudong Development Bank Card Center suspended operations with the Rockets.
- Chinese smartphone producer Vivo suspended business with the NBA.
- Online shopping sites owned by Alibaba and JD.com appeared to take down Rockets merchandise, according to CNBC.
- NBA G League game between Rockets affiliate the Rio Grande Valley Vipers and Dallas Mavericks affiliate the Texas Legends in China is canceled.
- CCTV says it will not broadcast two NBA preseason games slated to take place in China after Silver defends Morey’s freedom of speech.
- NBA Cares event with the Brooklyn Nets at an educational center in Shanghai is canceled. Silver said the NBA would still honor its commitment to provide new computers and facilities to the center.
- NBA Cares event with the Los Angeles Lakers to benefit Special Olympics is canceled.
- Bannner promoting Lakers-Nets preseason game torn is removed in Shanghai.
The New York Times’ Marc Stein reported on Tuesday that there are “growing fears” that the preseason games between the Lakers and Nets would be canceled.
The NBA has a burgeoning business and fan base in China. Over 500 million Chinese citizens watched an NBA game last season, and according to reports, the NBA signed a five-year, $500 million deal with Tencent over the offseason.
The NBA itself has drawn criticism for appearing to care about its bottom-line in China over defending Morey. Several lawmakers on Monday lambasted the league for its response to the tweet and subsequent controversy.
Silver attempted to push back on that criticism on Tuesday, saying the league’s values come first and foremost.
“It is inevitable that people around the world – including from America and China – will have different viewpoints over different issues,” Silver said in a press release on Tuesday. “It is not the role of the NBA to adjudicate those differences.
“However, the NBA will not put itself in a position of regulating what players, employees and team owners say or will not say on these issues. We simply could not operate that way.”
Silver said at a press conference shortly after the release of his statement that he hopes China will look past Morey’s tweet and recognize the business the two parties have done together.
“The long-held values of the NBA are to support freedom of expression, and certainly freedom of expression by members of the NBA community. And in this case Daryl Morey, as the general manager of the Houston Rockets, enjoys that right as one of our employees,” Silver said.
“What I also tried to suggest is I understand that there are consequences from that exercise of, in essence, his freedom of speech. We will have to live with those consequences. It’s my hope that for our Chinese fans and our partners in China, they will see those remarks in the context of now a three-decade, if not longer, relationship, and that we’ve done, in partnership with the Chinese Basketball Association, the Department of Education and many different businesses in China, I feel an enormous amount to build the sport, to work in communities, to focus on healthy lifestyles. That’s where we find ourselves, but that as a league, we are not willing to compromise those values.”
The issue, however, does not seem to be dying down. Silver acknowledged as much on Tuesday.
“I’m a realist as well, and I recognize that this issue may not die down so quickly.”
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