NBA, China tensions continue to rise; preseason broadcasts off

Commissioner Adam Silver and the NBA continue to fight some backlash they never saw coming, one that is costing them lots of money and support, and resulted from what most of their American fans would consider a simple tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.

Silver and the league released a statement on the matter Monday, with Silver also addressing the issue with an Asian news outlet. He released a lengthier statement Monday, offering support for Morey’s right to free speech. Morey’s since-deleted tweet supported the protests in Hong Kong, creating friction with the Chinese Basketball Association and numerous Chinese businesses that sponsor the Rockets and NBA.

“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,” Silver said in his latest statement.

“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.”

Silver’s statement does not come without more financial consequences. Chinese government-operated CCTV announced it is suspending its broadcasting with the NBA for preseason games — meaning fans won’t be able to watch the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets square off twice this week in Shanghai and Shenzen.

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

Silver admitted CCTV’s decision came as somewhat of a surprise.

“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,” Silver said.

The commissioner added he intends to meet with former Rockets center and current Chinese Basketball Association chairman Yao Ming this week in China.

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.