NBA's Chinese business interests clash with free speech

Alonzo Simpson
October 9, 2019

"We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to Silver's stated support of Morey's right to free speech". It's not just the perception of, oh, maybe there are potential customers that we can't offend if we take this or that social or political stance that is maybe dividing America.

"I don't think I can continue to watch (NBA) games", said 26-year-old Fu Hao, sweating after playing in an outdoor court.

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV said it will no longer air the two preseason games.

But NBA commissioner Adam Silver mildly defended Morey's freedom of speech earlier this week, which drew a sharp rebuke from the Chinese government.

They snowballed into a movement calling for more democratic freedoms and police accountability, in the biggest challenge to China's rule of Hong Kong since its handover from the British in 1997.

The outlet added that Wang's eye patch in the photo raised speculation that he supports the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters, given that eye patches have been connected to the movement since police hit a demonstrator in the eye with a bean bag at an August rally.

Online travel agency Ctrip said on Tuesday it had stopped selling tickets to National Basketball Association games and NBA-related tour packages. The Lakers and Brooklyn Nets are scheduled to play the first of two preseason games in the country Thursday.

Silver has attempted to dampen the firestorm in China over a tweet from Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, which read: "Fight for Freedom".

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"I was once working from someone from Hong Kong, and we went to mainland China, and the person insisted upon washing the dishes in a restaurant ... on the grounds that they [believed] that the people in mainland China were incapable of washing dishes correctly", he said.

The NBA's defiance shows the league is willing to pay the price for upholding what Silver called "values of equality, respect and freedom of expression" in its most promising market. James Harden, the most-valuable player for 2018 who plays for Houston Rockets, a team made popular in China by homegrown star Yao Ming, apologized and said "we love China". The NBA has frequently encouraged its athletes to speak about political issues like police violence in the USA and has been met with harsh criticism for seemingly censoring those who speak out against police violence and human rights in China.

"And the people in China and in Hong Kong are going to hold the capitalists in the West to account for what they did".

The commissioner's attempt to toe the line backfired on both fronts, as many USA citizens are saying Silver did not actually take a position, and those from China see that move as a showing of the NBA's ignorance and xenophobia.

"You have to understand what is really happening in Hong Kong in order to understand the reaction inside China", Ross told hosts Eugene Puryear and Sean Blackmon.

The league intially put out statements that senior U.S. politicians slammed as bowing to China for financial reasons, while Rockets star guard James Harden apologised.

As far as we're concerned, you can keep your money and we'll take our ball and go home.

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