Tension Between NBA, China Continues To Grow

Several days after Rockets general manager Daryl Morey deleted his now-infamous tweet expressing support for protestors in Hong Kong, the NBA and its partners in China don’t appear to be moving any closer to resolving the controversy it created.

Early on Tuesday morning, NBA commissioner Adam Silver followed up on the brief statement issued by the league on Sunday by publishing a new, lengthier statement which sought to clarify the NBA’s stance on the situation. In the statement, which can be read in full right here, Silver offered the following thoughts:

“Over the last three decades, the NBA has developed a great affinity for the people of China. We have seen how basketball can be an important form of people-to-people exchange that deepens ties between the United States and China.

“At the same time, we recognize that our two countries have different political systems and beliefs. And like many global brands, we bring our business to places with different political systems around the world.

“But for those who question our motivation, this is about far more than growing our business.

“Values of equality, respect and freedom of expression have long defined the NBA — and will continue to do so. As an American-based basketball league operating globally, among our greatest contributions are these values of the game.

“… It is inevitable that people around the world — including from America and China — will have different viewpoints over different issues. 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.”

In response to Silver’s latest missive, the Chinese state-run television network CCTV announced it would be suspending its broadcasting agreement for NBA preseason games, writes Arjun Kharpal of CNBC.

As Stephen Wade and Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press explain, the Lakers and Nets are scheduled to play in Shanghai in Thursday and Shenzen on Saturday, and while those games are expected to proceed as planned, they won’t be aired by CCTV. Silver admitted the league wasn’t expecting the network to take those measures, per The Associated Press.

“But if those are the consequences of us adhering to our values, I still feel it’s very, very important to adhere to those values,” the NBA commissioner said.

It’s not clear if the “temporary” broadcast suspension will last into the regular season, but CCTV issued a statement in Chinese (translated by MSNBC) making it clear that it wasn’t happy with the stance taken by Silver and the NBA:

“We are strongly dissatisfied and we oppose Silver’s claim to support Morey’s right of free expression. We believe that any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

According to comments relayed by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer (Twitter link), Silver still intends to attend Thursday’s exhibition contest in Shanghai and hopes to meet with the appropriate officials there to find common ground with the league’s partners in China. However, he added that he’s a “realist” and recognizes that the issue may not be resolved quickly.

Silver also said that he plans to meet this week with Yao Ming, the former Rockets center who is now the chairman of the Chinese Basketball Association (Twitter link via Rachel Nichols of ESPN).

I’m hoping together Yao and I can find an accommodation, but he is extremely hot at the moment and I understand it,” Silver said.

While Silver’s latest press release asserted that the NBA’s stance is about more than “growing [its] business,” the commissioner acknowledged to Joel Fitzpatrick of Kyodo News on Monday that the controversy has already affected the league’s bottom line. According to The Associated Press’ report, the NBA’s agreement with Chinese streaming partner Tencent, which has said it will no longer show Rockets games, is worth $1.5 billion over the next five years.

However, Silver insisted that that those business issues wouldn’t affect the league’s support of Morey and others exercising their freedom of expression.

“There is no doubt, the economic impact is already clear,” he told Fitzpatrick. “There have already been fairly dramatic consequences from that tweet, and I have read some of the media suggesting that we are not supporting Daryl Morey, but in fact we have. I think as a values-based organization that I want to make it clear…that Daryl Morey is supported in terms of his ability to exercise his freedom of expression.”

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41 thoughts on “Tension Between NBA, China Continues To Grow

  1. jjd002

    Who would have thought one tweet about human rights could start this much crap?!

    • Then you don’t realize the impact of Communism and socialism and government first type of rule. Did you read the above statement by China, that said anything derogatory toward the country is outside the realm of free speech? That’s alarming. God help those poor citizens of/in China.

      Another thought is will all those sneaker contracts go away like that of Klay Thompson and others? This could have an impact of millions and millions perhaps billions of dollars. Who knows where this is going to go economically and politically.

      • spinach

        Liddle Adam Schiff much? Statement did not speak to “anything derogatory towards the country.”

        Is addressed “any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

        Which is a very craftily-worded statement, I agree. But totally different. There are a million examples of speech that would be banned under your “derogatory” rule that would not be banned under the “sovereignty…stability” rule.

      • jjd002

        I’m well aware of the horrors of socialism/communism. My point was it was a fairly innocent tweet supporting human rights, which I assume a majority of Americans agree with, will potentially cost the NBA millions.

  2. brian_james

    “Any speech that challenges national sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech.”

    That is a terrifying statement.

    • iamoldboy

      Perhaps Silver is looking for us to boycott the NBA with bs comments like that. Silver gets his first black mark from me since he took over.

      #FreeHongKong

      • Luke Adams

        Just in case there’s any confusion, that comment came from the Chinese network CCTV, not from Silver.

  3. afsooner02

    I know the NBA is all about bottom dollar but they need to tell China to piss off. An American in the us can say whatever they feel about China and their sovereignty and communism and its protected here. the teams should not take those stands but individuals speaking for themselves have that inherent right. china doesnt like it? bye felicia.

    • SocraticGadfly

      Since this post, Silver has issued a second statement which politely says that.

      He “apologizes” for China’s reaction while stressing he and the league will NOT apologize for Morey and that the league stands by its values.

  4. I’m actually thinking out loud here, and wondering if the comments for this post will be shut down? Who knows who or what entities have their hands on this site Etc?

    • davengmusic

      China thinks Panda Express is gross too, since it’s a California-based chain. You want legit stuff? Go to the asian sectors of any major city. Crazy good food!

    • Reflect

      I will not tolerate this Panda Express slander. Any speech that challenges Panda Express is not within the scope of freedom of speech.

  5. davengmusic

    I LOVE that Adam Silver is standing up to China. He might take a hit in the pocketbook (NBA, not him personally) but China is also going to lose some revenue by boycotting the NBA. Silver is going to win any staring contest that China wages. He may not be right all the time, but no one is, and he’s right way more often than the other pro leagues. Best commissioner in American sports.

    • SocraticGadfly

      Exactly. Tencent signed a contract. What, they’re going to stop broadcasting regular season games too? (I presume they’ve paid up front for at least part of the first year.)

      In Brooklyn, is Joe Tsai going to moan too much and risk non-Chinese fans not showing up to watch Kevin Durant not play? (Hoops Rumors didn’t like my original comment.)

    • emac22

      There are no winners in a deal like this.

      I support Silver here but this is a lose lose and a real shame. The idea that China loses more doesn’t make it a win for the US.

  6. That any country chooses to broker deals with a nation with such appalling human and animal rights track records blows my mind. Not that US or UK track records are all that great tbh

  7. joefriday14
    joefriday14

    How sad the NBA would demean and degrade the Kong and Chinese Country Men. How can they ever expect to be understood, respected and considered a fair sport. No International Basketball for years to come unless Houston moves to Hong Kong.

  8. dynasty in boston

    What?? No Chinese TV? How will I know whether the Nets cave to Kaylee Irving’s demand to be traded to Shanghai Barnacles at halftime?

  9. madmanTX

    NBA should stand with human rights instead of with Pooh Bear Xi and his crushing of democracy.

  10. This Is not about Hong Kong. This Is neither about money, not only. This Is about power. China wants USA, and consequently all the countries, bow.

    • SumTingWong

      China already OWNS half of the USA land and real estate . there are 5 Chinese people for every 1 American , so they already have that power that you speak of. that is why you are scared already ?

  11. emac22

    I’d like to express my support for the NBA refusing to bow to China’s demand that we ignore our values.

    If that means we lose a huge market that’s too bad but selling out our ideals for more customers is not how this country should operate.

  12. jorge78

    The Chinese won’t be happy until the NBA delivers Morey
    to China so he can start serving his 10 year jail sentence…..

  13. richard dangler

    Maybe this will finally open everyone’s eyes to how terrible China is. China is the greatest threat to the U.S. Big business has been selling out Americans for a long time in the interest of money.

  14. nlikeflynn

    The US fans should boycott the NBA for not standing up for freedom. Adam Silver you are a joke of a man if you allow your league to be pushed around by a foreign power.

    Stand the F up NBA, don’t bow down to anyone that wants to tell you what you can and can’t say about freedom!!!!!!!

  15. toudi

    Tsai is calling 2 mln people who march in Hong Kong separatists maybe NBA should look into that oh wait there’s freedom of speech lucky for him :p
    Alibaba is loosing millions because of those protests so when the people create a human chain 50 kilometers long you call them the bad guys because that’s what bad guys usually do! :p

    • SumTingWong

      the Hong Kong marchers are separatists , guilty of sedition, because Hong Kong IS part of mainland China already. did you not get the memo ?

  16. waaaah

    If criminals are in Alaska or Hawaii, does the White House have the right to try them? So what we are discussing is not human rights, but whether criminals should go unpunished. This is the cause of everything. It has nothing to do with basketball.

      • waaaah

        Yes, you are wrong. Because the government wants corrupt criminals living in a city to get a fair trial, but some citizens in the city oppose it. These citizens are employed by an organization.

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