China TV drops NBA exhibition games, escalating pressure amid tweet uproar

Credit: Reuters - Sports
Published on October 8, 2019 - Duration: 01:28s
NBA commissioner Silver defends free speech

China TV drops NBA exhibition games, escalating pressure amid tweet uproar


(SOUNDBITE) (English) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "Part of the reason I issued the statement I did is because this afternoon CCTV announced that because of my remarks supporting Daryl Morey's freedom of expression, not the substance of his statement but his freedom of expression, they were not going to air the (Los Angeles) Lakers, (Brooklyn) Nets pre-season games that are scheduled for later this week.

"Again it's not something we expected to happen, I think it's unfortunate, but if that's the consequences of us adhering to our values we still feel it's critically important we adhere to those values." 2.


(SOUNDBITE) (English) ADAM SILVER, NBA COMMISSIONER, SAYING: "Again I accept that we have a difference of opinion.

I also think that as part of our core values tolerance is one of those as well.

I think tolerance for different society's approaches, tolerance for different points of view and the ability to listen.

"I don't come here, either as the Commissioner of the NBA or as an American, certainly to tell others how they should run their governments.

At the end of the day though I am an American and there are these values that are deeply rooted in the DNA of the NBA." STORY: Chinese state television said on Tuesday (October 8) it would not air NBA exhibition games played in the country this week, heaping pressure on the U.S. basketball league after a tweet by a Houston Rockets executive backing protests in Hong Kong.

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey apologised on Monday for any hurt caused by the tweet, which he quickly deleted over the weekend.

But China's government, fans and the team's partners have not been assuaged, resulting in loss of sponsors and broadcasts in the world's second-largest economy and an important National Basketball Association (NBA) market.

"We strongly oppose Silver's support of Morey on the basis of freedom of speech and we think any comments that challenge a country's sovereignty and social stability is not within the scope of freedom of speech," CCTV said Tuesday in a statement in Chinese, adding that it would review its relationship with the NBA.

The NBA issued a statement saying it regretted Morey's remarks, drawing criticism from U.S. lawmakers.

But commissioner Adam Silver said at a press conference on Tuesday that it was not up to the NBA to regulate what players, employees and team owners said.

Months of anti-government protests in Chinese-ruled Hong Kong have angered Beijing, which has accused Western governments of stirring up anti-China sentiment.

China rejects outside intervention in Hong Kong as interference.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang referred to criticism of Morey's comment by the Chinese Basketball Association, which he said made China's position "very clear".

The NBA's regular season, to which CCTV owns exclusive Chinese broadcast rights, begins this month.

Tech giant Tencent Holdings has exclusive internet streaming rights in China, which media reports have said are worth about $1.58 billion.

It has said it would temporarily stop showing Rockets games.

The decision heaps pressure on the league, which faces criticism on multiple fronts about its handling of the controversy.

Its apology on Sunday disappointed some who see the league as the most progressive of the U.S. sports organizations, while Silver's support for Morey's right to speak his mind has left the league vulnerable in China.

The league has worked for years to cultivate the Chinese market and regularly plays exhibition games there.

Its top stars, including Rockets guard James Harden, frequently visit to meet fans and take part in promotions with sponsors.

Tencent said in July that 490 million Chinese fans watched NBA programming on its platforms last season, up threefold since the 2014-2015 season.

Silver said the league's stance was firm, that members of the NBA community were free to express themselves and that the league backed their right to do so.

A pre-season game between the Nets and the Los Angeles Lakers is set for Thursday in Shanghai, with a rematch scheduled for Saturday in Shenzhen.

However, organisers abruptly cancelled a Tuesday media event without explanation.

Several Chinese celebrities also announced they would not attend an NBA-organised "fans' night" on Wednesday.

(Production: Andy Ragg)

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